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Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 







(late C. M, 6AXT0N & CO.) 


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by 
6. P. Putnam and Company, 
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern 
District of New York. 



Prf nters, 

113 Fulton Street, N. Y. 

I grieve not that ripe knowledge takes away 
The charm that Nature to my childhood wore. 

For with the insight cometh day by day, 
A greater bliss than wonder was before. 

To win the secret of a weed's plain heart, 

Reveals the clue to spiritual things. 

The soul that looks within for truth may guess 

The presence of some unknown heavenliness." 



1. Only a Pebble 7 

II. Nature in Motion 29 

III. The Ocean and its Life , 8*7 

IV. A Chat about Plants 118 

V. Younger Years of a Plant 154 

VI. Later Years of a Plant 195 

VIL Plant-Mummies 223 

VIII. Unknown Tongues 241 

IX. A Trip to the Moon 265 





"All Nature widens upward. Evermore 
The simpler essence lower lies : 
More complex is, more perfect, owning more, 
Discourses more widely wise."— Tennyson. 

A WAY out in Mesopotamia, the traveller sees vast 
plains unroll themselves before his wondering eye, 
and scattered over them many a grassy knoll with its 
flock of goats and camels. No one suspected that under 
those hills lay buried the ancient glory of Nineveh, "an 
exceeding great city of three days' journey, wherein are 
more than six score thousand persons." Like the faint 
echo of distant thunder, a few half-forgotten names and 
vague, dream-like legends, were all that had come down 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

to us from the vast empire, whose merchants were many, 
"even as the stars in heaven." But a man came from a 
far off island, he gathered the stones that lay scattered 
about, and the silence, that had brooded over them for 
countless ages, was broken by his magic touch. Here he 
found on a brick strange and yet familiar signs; there 
he dug, out of the rubbish of thousands of years, costly 
slabs of alabaster, and on them were carved gigantic, awe- 
inspiring figures. The Bible in his hand he read, and 
name after name resumed life and meaning, until at last 
the whole of its wondrous splendor was unfolded before 

And thus there lies many a stone in our path that 
might teach us lessons of grave import — for when the tra- 
ditions of men are silent, stones become eloquent. But 
we thrust them aside and we say with contempt: It is 
only a pebble! We call it dead, lifeless nature. Oh, if 
it were a noble animal, a beauteous plant ! or even a 
rusty coin, a worm-eaten parchment, upon which some an- 
cient dreamer wrote his long-forgotten fancies about heaven 
and earth — how we would tax our ingenuity, how we would 
search through the wide field of human knowledge, and 
bring the wisdom of ages to bear upon the great secret! 
For are not coins and parchments the work of man 1 He 
deigns not to read the bright letters with which Earth 
herself has written her history on the simple sides of a 

Only a pebble ! Oh man, that stone which you thrust 
so contemptuously out of your way, is older than all else 
on this earth! When the waters under heaven were 

Only a Pebble. 


gathered together unto one place, that pebble was there. 
Who can tell us the story of those first days, when the 
earth was in sore travail, when her heaving bosom belched 
forth torrents of fire, vast avalanches of hissing, seething 
water, and volumes of deadly vapors? When glowing, 
blazing streams of lava threw a bloody red glare on the 
silent, lifeless earth, and amidst a trembling and thunder- 
ing that shook the firmament, a thousand volcanoes at 
once lifted up their fiery heads; when out of the foam- 
ing waters there rose suddenly the rocky foundations of 
firm land and greeted the light that God had created? 

That pebble was Life's first offspring on earth. The 
Spirit of God moved on the waters, and life was breathed 
into the very gases that were hid in the heart of the 
vapory globe. They parted in love, they parted in hate; 
they fled and they met. Atom joined atom; loving sis- 
ters kissed each other, and this love, the great child of 
that Spirit on earth, brought forth its first fruit, the peb- 
ble! Other stones also arose; out of the dark chaos new 
brothers were seen to appear, and countless friends stood 
by the side of the first comer. Warmth spread through 
their limbs, electric currents shaped and fashioned them 
into ever new forms, and they were joined into families 
and races each in his kind. 

And now the wild struggle subsided. The fierce spirits 
of fire were banished far down to the dark caverns of the 
earth ; but in angry passion they still rage and roar be- 
low, rise in powerless fury until the earth trembles and 
the heart of man is awed, or pour forth streams of burning 

lava through mighty volcanoes. Thus the flames bring us, 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

even now, messages from the vasty deep, and the lava 
shows us that what is firm and fast on the surface is still 
boiling and seething below. Ever yet the unruly spirits 
trouble the earth. Here they lift Sweden or Chili high 
out of the vast ocean, there they draw Greenland and Italy 
down towards their unknown home. Ever yet the stones 
live; they lift up and sink islands, they fashion new lakes 
and fill up large streams; they pour fiery cataracts from 
lofi;y mountains and bury whole cities under vast volumes 
of ashes. They are ever active, and change, day by day, 
the very soil on which we live. 

Such were the pebble's earliest days: Is he not well- 
born'? But philosophers tell us that he was born only 
to die; that life was almost instantly followed by death. 
To a certain point this is true. As the rock was the first 
life that came to light from the chaos of atoms, so it also 
died at the moment of birth. The life-giving electric 
spark was even but a spark, and, its mission fulfilled, it 
vanished. The life, that was given from without, that was 
not inborn, could not continue. Now and then, it is true, 
fire breaks out anew, as if unable to bear any longer the 
bonds of death; but what, after all, can it do but lift the 
coffin's top for a while? No fire on earth can wake and 
warm the dead giant within to new life. And yet, even 
here, where death seems to reign sole and supreme, there 
are still mysterious powers at work that human wisdom 
has but partly explained. Place finely-powdered sand on 
a glass plate and let the clear mass give out a high or 
low note, and, behold ! the stone, lifeless, soulless stone, 
listens to the harmonious sound, dances and frolics, and 

Only a Pebble. 11 

ranges itself in wondrous stars and circles. What strange 
power has the so-called Bononian stone to keep the rays 
of the sun or the light of earth-kindled fire captive, and 
to let them loose again, long after it has been hidden in 
utter darkness? What gives the blood-red Turmalin its 
electric power? But electric currents pass even now, un- 
seen and unnoticed, through the heart of the earth, and, 
under their influence, crystals arise and assume most 
beautiful shapes. Their forms are most simple, it is true, 
but so varied in their very simplicity, that man's ingenuity 
and most fertile fancy has not yet invented a new one. 
Nothing but straight lines are seen there, cubes and pyra 
mids, rhomboids and prisms, but they all glitter and glare 
in strange brilliancy, when a ray of light illumines them 
for an instant in their dark, inaccessible homes. 

And if the stone itself does not live, and labor, and 
change, friends come from all sides to gladden his silent 
house and to deck it with precious colors. In the very 
midst of the rocky world Jive the merrier metals, and 
form a thousand delicate veins, bright crystals, and tender 
foliage. Imprisoned in the cold, hard rock, dwell iron 
and lead, gold and silver, now in safe inaccessible caves, 
and now mysteriously mixed with its very substance, as 
if they were lost, frozen rays of heavenly light. There 
they hide, buried in eternal night, and fancy they have 
escaped all foes from beneath; but they dream not of 
the much more dangerous enemies who live above them 
and know their secret chambers, even if they cannot look 
down into the impenetrable darkness of the rocky world. 
The bold miner digs and drills, and fearlessly descends 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

into the very heart of the earth; there he breaks through 
wall and rampart, and forces the rich metal from its an- 
cient home to toil an humble slave in the service of man. 

And is there no romance in the poor pebble's life — the 
only life on earth that all science of men cannot trace to 
its first beginning 1 The pebble was bom when God made 
heaven and earth. The same hills, the same mountains, 
have covered the land from the day that man looked with 
awe upon the "everlasting hills." Nations have passed 
away, and races have vanished from among us, but even 
the pyramids stand yet in ancient glory and defy the 
power of ages. The mighty empires of the Pharaohs and 
the Ptolemies have fallen before the enemy ; the laws of 
the Medes and the Persians, that changed not, are for- 
gotten; the hut of the Arab and the palace of the con- 
queror have alike crumbled into dust — but the unchanging 
rocks rise still high and unbroken from the midst of 

And yet even mountains are not everlasting, and rocks 
not eternal. What would be their life without a change, 
and what their existence without a struggle? Even the 
poor pebble has thus a life of his own, rich in adventure, 
lofty in its character, and glorious in its end. 

We see the pebble only as it lies sullen and silent 
near the bank of a brook, perhaps amidst high luxuriant 
tufts of grass that grow in his shade, and feed on his life's 
marrow. Around him, on the overhanging banks, stand 
bright-colored flowers and gaze, with maidens' vanity, upon 
their image in the crystal waters below them. All around 
him is life and motion. On the wings of the tempest the 

Only a Pebble. 


clouds above him race up the heavens and down again. 
Thick pearly drops of cooling rain patter from on high, 
and rise soon after, in clear, invisible vapors, back to the 
sunny height from which they came. Untiring wings carry 
the birds of heaven to their distant homes. Restless 
brooks rush in eager haste from the snow-covered Alps 
to the sunny plains ; broad streams pour majestically their 
huge floods into the great ocean, and hasten with its gi- 
gantic waves around our globe. The beasts of the field 
wander from land to land; nations and empires are ever 
seen moving w^ith a strange, mysterious impulse, towards 
the setting sun — the very trees and grasses of the earth 
move slowly, in man's wake, from zone to zone. 

The pebble alone lies still and lonely by the wayside, 
and shuts his eyes not to see the merry, w^andering life 
around him. Still, he also had his time when he travelled 
far over land and sea. High upon a lofty mountain-peak 
was his first home, and there his life, full of strife and 
struggle, began in fierce war with the elements. For there 
is enmity betw^een them and the poor pebble. Mild but 
treacherous rains stole through cleft and crevice into every 
pore of the rock, and oozed from vein to vein, filling the 
core of the giant with indescribably delicate and won- 
drously ramified little canals. Then came hard winters 
that froze the swelling veins, and sent sharp daggers of 
icicles into his very marrow; they blasted his limbs, and 
rent them with insidious force into fragments. Balmy 
springs melted again the thousand sharp wedges; but al- 
ready the poor rock rejoices no longer in his solid, 
massive strength; water and air have drilled and bored 

14 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

countless little holes and channels through the vast body; 
each year snow and ice press further and further ; the 
very air, full of destructive power, gnaws at every corner 
and every edge, until the high-swollen torrent at last 
worries the weary rock out of his ancient resting-place, 
and bears him for a moment in wild triumph high on 
its roaring, rollicking waves. Or perhaps cold, dazzling 
glaciers, bright, niajestic icebergs, lifted him on their broad 
shoulders, and carried him high over wide plains or the 
ocean's unmeasured width, until at last he fell, with a 
fearful crash, that the splinters flew and the waters 
foamed. Even now the heavy rocks of the polar circle 
are carried, by the hand of colossal icebergs, from the 
eternal snows of their home to the sweet climes of the 
equator. Even now the glaciers of Alps and Andes bear 
down huge blocks of ancient granite to low meadows and 
distant waters. The green waters of the Khine carry 
many a child of the ice-covered Alps to the fertile plains 
of the Netherlands, whilst the brother that was born on 
the same high throne, is torn from his side to wander 
on the dark waves of the Danube to the inhospitable 
shores of the Black Sea. 

For, a fierce, untiring leveller, the water wages incessant 
war against the aristocrats of the earth. It gnaws and 
tears and wearies the loftiest mountain top season after 
season, age after age, and is never content until it has 
brought him low, and dragged him in spiteful contumely 
to its own great home, the ocean. Each river has to 
be a faithful, restless servant in the work of destruction. 
The Nile has created its Delta, the Rhine has formed 

Only a Pebble. 


all Holland ; before the Ganges and the Mississippi grow 
vast islands of mud and sand far into the ocean. The 
Po and the Rhine, like greater rivers, have even raised 
their own bed, so that they now flow above the sur- 
rounding plain, and costly levees only can keep our own 
Father of Rivers within his natural bounds. From high 
mountains come the unmeasured stores of finely-ground 
stone that cover the bed of the ocean. Every tide and 
every current, that approaches the coast, brings on its 
broad shoulders immense masses of sand, and heaps them, 
layer upon layer, until the downs of some countries rise 
to a height of two hundred feet. It is as if the poor 
exiled stone longed to return to its early home. Raging 
and roaring, new tides and new waves rush against their 
own offspring, but the humble pebble, strong in union, 
and hardened by the very pressure of the waters, resists 
their fury, checks the huge power of the ocean, and pro- 
tects proud man in his possessions! 

Man hardly dreams of the fierce, incessant warfare that 
is waged against the loftiest mountain chains of our earth. 
It is true we see Alpine torrents press angrily through 
their narrow bed, half filled with ruins, we hear the thun- 
der of mighty rocks that fall with the terrible avalanche, 
we know even mountain sides to slide and to bury whole 
towns under their colossal weight. The dweller in high 
Alpine regions sees, through spring and through summer, 
large stones suddenly fly off from the steep, smooth sides 
of the highest rocks, often with such loud explosions and 
so constantly, as to resemble the regular fire of a platoon. 
The mountain shepherd sees, year after year, his pastures 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

encroached upon by masses of falling, crumbling rock, and 
the amazed traveller is seized with deep awe and vague 
fear, when he crosses the vast wastes, covered with thous- 
ands of silent stones, with which the elements have written 
their Mene Mene in colossal letters on the mountain 
slopes. But we are all accustomed to look upon these 
events as the rare occurrences of a year or a season. 
The tooth of Time works slowly, and generations pass 
away, ere its marks are seen by human eyes. The hand 
of Him in whose hands lies the fate of the earth, loves 
not to send plutonic powers to shake the mountains from 
their ancient foundations, and has promised that there 
"shall not be any more a flood to destroy the earth." 
But Alps and Andes, Cordilleras and Himalaya will fall, 
and the eternal mountains be levelled to the ground. 

Our rock, hurled by his enemy from his ancient throne, 
now lies in some deep, dark ravine, where night and dead 
silence alone reign supreme. A giant block still, it hangs 
threatening in boldly towering masses over the precipice, 
and, in its sullen, stolid wrath, stems for a while the wild 
raging flood. Wave after wave falls back from his strong, 
rocky breast ; year after year the rushing waters leap 
yelling over his proud head, or steal grumbling and 
growling past the invincible foe. But the victory is here 
also not to the strong. Step by step they push him 
down into the valley ; limb after limb they tear from 
his body and grind them into fine sand; by day and by 
night, in winter and summer, they throw their whole power 
against him, until at last he resists no longer and be- 
comes "only a pebble." 

Only a Pebble. 


But a sadder fate still awaits him. The roaring fiiry 
of a swollen torrent seizes him and carries him off in 
wild haste. After a fierce chase down the steep sides 
of a mountain, he finds himself of a sudden in a new 
world. He wonders and marvels. He lies in a smiling 
meadow, glowing in the golden light of the sun and 
decked with gorgeous flowers. But alas! he cannot live 
in a world of light and air. A thousand new foes, small, 
unseen, and unnoticed, but all the more powerful, surround 
him. Sweet, prattling rivulets play with the new guest, 
and too late he finds that there is poison in their smile 
and a dagger in each embrace. The very air, this mere 
dream that the eye does not see, and the hand does not 
feel, attacks him with fatal energy. It pierces into his 
veins; it slips into the tiniest cleft; it loosens the sinews 
of his structure, and gnaws, with insatiable eagerness, at 
the very core of his life. The fiercest of all his enemies, 
called oxygen, sows discord among the imprisoned gases 
that hold the beautiful structure of the stone together. 
Subtle and cunning, it lures, first one and then another, 
from its ancient alliance ; treacherously it draws them to 
the surface, and decks the unresisting victim with brilliant 
colors which conceal the certain destruction that is going 
on beneath the bright surface. The lifeless mass, no 
longer strong in union, begins to crumble into its ele- 
ments. New forces are called to aid: electric fluids 
consume his last force, and galvanic currents tear and 
rend what has withstood all other influences. Utterly 
helpless and friendless, the poor pebble thus lies but a 
little while amidst the grasses that feed upon his very 

18 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

substance. See, already moist-footed mosses have scaled 
up his sides, and, true parasites as they are, cling firmly 
to his dying body. Whole families of minute algae have 
snugly ensconced themselves in every wrinkle of his 
weather-beaten face, and diminutive water-pools fill every 
scar and every dimple. Soon they will have hid him for- 
ever under the green turf of his grave, and slowly, slowly, 
he will moulder away under his moist grave-clothes. 

And if he does at last succumb, the mighty rock — is 
it not a glorious strife, this never-ceasing battle between 
soft, elastic water, and cold, rigid stone 1 How they charge 
and charge again, these subtle, tiny drops of rain ; these 
airy, gentle flakes of snow; these graceful crystals of icy 
hail! The great giant cannot resist the diminutive dwarfs. 
Truly, the battle is not to the strong, for the victor is the 
weak, wee drop of water, and so helpless is the colossal 
mountain, that it succumbs to the passing shower and the 
soft, elastic wave. For, in fact, its very massiveness is 
its sure ruin. His foes are light, airy beings — he cannot 
seize them, he cannot strangle them in his gigantic arms. 
The tiny brook wears its little rill with untiring industry 
into the rocky sides of the mountain; the torrent tears 
its flanks, spring after spring, with ever new and ever 
growing fierceness; huge glaciers break its mighty ribs; 
the air crumbles the lofty summit to pieces, and the 
proud giant sees his sad fate foreshadowed in the ruins 
that slowly, but surely, gather at his feet. There he 
stands, stern and stately still, the hero of Nature's great 
tragedy; boldly facing certain death, and yet manfully, 
nobly struggling against inevitable Tate. For there is 

Only a Pebble. 


something peculiarly tragic in the simple fact, that the 
rock succumbs to the powers of that same life which he 
first bore, first nourished. He gathered around his lofty- 
head the waters of the air — and the clouds and thunder- 
storms which he nursed in his bosom and bore many a 
long day on his mighty shoulders, strike, like thankless 
children, their sharp fangs into his side. Mosses and 
algae, that found a safe home in his thousand chinks and 
clefts, eat their way into his substance, and caused his 
rocky surface to decay. Dark forests grew on his ridges, 
and he fed them age after age with his life's blood — 
but w^hat is his reward? They sport with the vapors of 
the far-off ocean; they call them and keep them in loving 
embrace, or pour them in fierce rain and destructive hail 
upon his decaying sides. The very grasses with which he 
loved to deck his sweet, fragrant meadows, dig with spade 
and auger into the crumbling stone, and consume layer 
after layer. And when all these, his graceless children, 
cannot conquer the mighty giant, man comes to their aid, 
and with cruel machinery, with brutal powder, he breaks 
his iron limbs, and cuts and carves at his granite foun- 
dation. As the giants and titans of ancient Greece fell, 
one by one, victims of a higher power, in whose service 
they had won a noble fame, so the very life that the 
rock created and nourished, feeds in turn upon him, and 
Fate decrees his death through the results of his own 
colossal strength. 

But there is Life in Death. Not in man's inspired 
writings only, but in every lineament, in every movement 
of our great mother Earth all around us, all over this 

20 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

globe, Death seems to stalk triumphant. The summer 
passes away, flowers fade and fruits decay; field and 
meadow are buried in deep slumber. Broad lands are 
swallowed up by the hungry ocean, and gigantic moun- 
tains sink to be seen no more. But Death has found his 
conqueror in Nature also. What perishes, rises again ; 
what fades away, changes liut form and shape. Sweet 
spring follows winter; new life blossoms out of the grave. 

So with stones also. The poor pebble lies unnoticed 
by the water's edge ; soft rains come and loosen the bands 
that held him together; refined, almost spiritualized, he 
rises with the gentle water-drops into the delicate roots 
of plants. With the grass he passes into the grazing 
cattle, and through vein and artery, until at last he be- 
comes part and portion of the being into which God 
himself has breathed the breath of life! And when dust 
returns to dust, he also is restored once more to his 
first home, after having served his great purpose in the 
household of Nature — not to rest or to perish forever, 
but to begin again the eternal course through death and 

But even whilst yet "only a pebble," he claims our 
attention as the very Proteus of stones, that meets us 
in a thousand ever new and ever changing forms, at all 
times of our life, from the cradle to the grave, until we 
ourselves return dust to dust. 

Far below in the vast deep of primeval mountains he 
dreams of the gay, light life on the sunny surface of the 
earth, of strange forms of plants, and of still stranger, 
free motions of animals. A new, irresistible impulse 

Only a Pebble. 


seizes him, and he grows up — who knows how? — into a 
wondrous crystal, decked with bright colors, the very 
flowers of the subterranean world of stones. In lonely, 
silent caverns they light up the eternal night with a fire 
given them long before man trod upon earth. Like 
petrified sparks of light, here in diminutive littleness, 
there in gigantic size, they lie scattered about. Mighty 
rivers roll tiny fragments to the distant ocean. In the 
crystal caves of St. Gothard, the clear, glorious rock- 
crystal grows in bright, polished pyramids of one to eight 
hundred pounds' weight ! Now and then it blends with 
the gay colors of metals, and appears as beautiful topaz, 
binding, as it were, the very smoke of subterranean fire 
in graceful stone, or as precious amethyst, whose violet 
crystals Aristotle praised for their beauty, and because, 
worn on the breast, they protected the wearer against 
the evils of drunkenness. Long and slender, fit to be 
the sceptre of the earth's sovereign, the pebble-crystal 
shines and glitters in the mines of Hungary; in Java 
his brilliant splendor is humbly hid in loose sand, and 
in our own Northern States it adorns the common sand- 
stone with bright, beautiful points. And if you hold the 
gay stone-flower to the light — what sparkles in its trans- 
parent bosom? The crystal holds in loving embrace a 
kindred spirit: a pure drop of water rests clear and bright 
in its glassy prison, and dreams of the sister drops that 
flit without in eager haste and restless strife through the 
wide, wide world. 

There is no form that the pebble does not assume, 
no company that he despises. He is constantly changing 

22 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

shape and home, to join countless other stones, metals, and 
earths, and, with them, to give new life and new beauty 
to the unknown mineral world. Invisible, he gushes forth 
in the clear waters of hot springs, from the very heart 
of the earth. The burning geysers of Iceland are not too 
hot for him; the very craters of Kamschatka afford him 
a comfortable home, and, with strange pleasure, he forms 
a stony armor around the tender stalks of graceful 

As if he had lost his way and strayed from his path, 
he is found in chalk-mountains, far from his kindred, and 
oddly shaped in the form of flints, holding in his bosom 
the power of calling forth the hidden fire of metals. 
Everywhere his works are seen. Here he builds heaven- 
aspiring Alps, with deep abysses and lovely valleys ; their 
lofty heads are buried in eternal ice, on which the morn- 
ing and evening sun kindles fires that proclaim the power 
of the Almighty far over land and sea; from their sides 
thunder death-bearing avalanches and furious torrents, 
whilst at their feet lie green meadows and still waters, 
where the weary love to rest. There he raises huge 
domes, crowned with frowning forests, or he sends up, as 
if in sport, strange, quaintly-shaped columns of sandstone, 
that tower like enchanted castles above the plain. The 
pebble is the true architect of mountains; it is he who 
built their gigantic pyramids and their mighty cupolas; 
if we descend to the first stones of the plutonic world, 
there is the pebble ; if we rise up to volcanic creation, 
even there we meet the despised pebble. Again he 
spreads himself out in dreary vastness over the plains 

Only a Pebble. 


of Asia and Africa; he creates those terrible deserts, 
where the tinkling of the camel's bell alone breaks the 
dead silence. There the soil burns, the air glows, hot 
vapors alone seem to live. But even here the pebble 
tries to create new shapes. He gives himself up to the 
wild sports of the winds; like a huge water-spout he 
rushes up and down the fearful waste, or he paints, with 
enchanted colors, wondrous images of cool gardens, blue 
hills, and refreshing fountains. 

Even into the other kingdoms of Nature he finds his 
way. He wrestles with the powers of the earth and, after 
conquest, compels them to serve him as useful allies. 
Wheat and oats, rye and barley, all need a flinty soil; 

grasses, that feed our domestic animals and man him- 
self, drink with their roots in rain and spring water, large 
quantities of dissolved flint. It is an humble and de- 
spised thing, the worthless straw and the low stalk of 
grass; and yet it surpasses in beauty and boldness of 
structure the graceful palm and the storm-defying oak. 
SI i]y, slowly, the pebble's tiniest parts mingle with the 
soft waters of the earth, and ascend, through root and 
radicle, into the heart of joyous plants. Man has no 
lofty steeple, the world no proud pyramid, that can com- 
pare with the airy and yet solid structure of the humble 
blade of grass. Thanks to the little pebble, its hollow 
column rises high above moss and clod ; its tower fills 
story after story with rich food for man ; the rain cannot 
enter into the safe chambers; the wind can bend but not 
break the elastic pillar. 

Thus the pebble unites with his enemy, water, to create 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

a new world, and to become itself, as it were, a life- 
endowed being. He ceases to be the rigid, unbending 
stone; with the tiny drop he enters into organic creation. 
He feeds now as they do upon the ethereal elements of 
air and fire, and aids in building up a new kingdom 
of organic beings. Surely, there are sermons in stones. 
Was there ever sermon preached that taught more clearly 
the transfiguration of even lifeless matter, and its resur- 
rection in a higher world? 

The pebble spends, however, not all of his creative 
power on the Vegetable Kingdom only ; he works in a 
still higher world also, and gives a form and a house to 
millions endowed with animal life. When they die, he 
gathers together their abandoned home with wonderful 
care, and builds out of minute, mostly invisible shells, 
wide plains and towering mountains! Does this not re- 
mind one of the enchanted princesses of Eastern tales? 
Here also there are beings, but beings without number, 
held in the icy bonds of death, waiting for the day 
when the great word shall be spoken that will change 
death once more into life, and sorrow into joy. 

Thus, through plants and animals, the pebble has risen, 
ever brighter, better, and more useful in the great house- 
hold of Nature. No longer a selfish recluse, he now 
offers a brother's hand to other elements, and, with their 
aid, he enters into and builds up himself a higher world. 
We know that every drop of our spring water contains 
some little atoms of the pebble, and plant, animal, and 
man, drink, all alike, with this water, an indispensable 
element of their life. Man's very body, it is said, holds 

Only a Pebble. 


flint; he drinks it in his water, and eats it in his lentils, 
his beans, and his cabbage. 

But even this does not satisfy the pebble's ambition. 
He feels his longing towards light — for even stones, " the 
whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain" — not yet 
satisfied. He presses onward, upward, to the great light 
of heaven, and, at last, by a new union, becomes light 
itself, bodily, tangible light. 

Phoenician merchants, we are told, in days of old 
kindled a fire on the sandy shores of Africa, and built 
a rude hearth of natron, with which they traded. They 
saw, to their amazement, a beautiful mass, bright and 
clear, formed in the ashes. The wily merchants carefully 
gathered the strange pieces and — glass was invented. 
More recent researches have discovered glass in the cities 
of the dead of old Egypt, and, if there is no error about 
it, even ancient Nineveh already knew the precious ma- 

Thus the humble pebble became the invaluable medium 
by w^hich we can let light into the dark night of our 
dwellings. The poor Esquimaux still builds his miserable 
hut like the beasts of the field, darkening and closing all 
apertures, to keep out snow and rain, frost and ice. 
Other nations are reduced to thin layers of horn, which 
allow a faint light to sift through the opaque material, 
but soon lose even this transparency under the influence 
of wind and weather. Better fares the contented peasant 
of Siberia, who gathers the ample stores of mica around 
his hat, cuts them into small thin panes, and thus enjoys 
a doubtful light, equally far from the joyous brightness 

Leaves fiiom the Book of Nature. 

of day and the sweet, sleep-bringing coziness of night. 
Few only could be able to afToid the costly luxury of 
the so-called window-pane niuscle of Chinese waters, and 
yet fewer still ever think of what a true blessing the 
little pebble is to us in his new form of glass ! How 
vastly superior is — thanks to him — the poorest laborer's 
hut now to the gorgeous palaces of ancient Rome. 
Neither the splendid mansions of her senators nor the 
glorious temples of Athens and Memphis knew the cheap 
comfort, the simple beauty of glass. Now, poor, indeed^ 
and wretched must be the man who cannot invite the 
cheerful light of day into his humble dwelling, and yet 
keep storm and rain, wind and weather at bay. And as 
light comes, a welcome guest, to his hearth, so his eye 
can, unnnpeded by wickerwork or wooden shutter, as of 
old, now pass freely beyond the narrow domain of his 
little home. It can reach far and free into God's beau- 
teous creation, and even the poor, sick sufferer on his 
couch may gladden his eye with the sight of green trees, 
and his mind by looking upward into the blue heaven 
where his great flxther dwells, that will never forsake him. 

It is strange, indeed, that the great value of glass 
remained so long unacknowledged. It is true that Phoe- 
nician and Carthaginian merchant-princes gloried in their 
large, brilliant glass vases as the costliest jewels they 
possessed. Nero and Hadrian even yet counted them as 
by far the most precious treasures of their palaces, and 
paid nearly half a million for one. To keep their rich 
wines in glass and to drink the generous fluid out of 
glass was given only to a few, the richest of the land. 

Only a Pebble. 


The North of Europe appreciated it still more slowly. 
The royal palace of rich England could, in the year 1661^ 
boast of glass windows only in the upper stories; the 
lower were closed with shutters. 

Those Phoenicians who first made glass, did certainly 
not anticipate that they had thus created a charm by 
which man would hereafter obtain the most signal 
triumphs in science. They were pleased with its bright 
coloring, they fashioned it into graceful vessels, they shaped 
it into a thousand forms, but they knew not that a glance 
through the glassy pebble would open to their near-sighted 
eye the wonders of the Universe. With the lens man 
governs the M'hole world. He tells the rays of the 
sun to come and to depart at his bidding; he scatters 
them as he pleases and he binds them together, until 
their united strength melts the very stone of stones, the 
hardest of earthly bodies, the diamond. Near-sighted or 
far-sighted, he takes a glass and the rays of light are 
made to fall where he pleases, so that he may see what 
Nature seemed to have denied him. What a progress 
is this from the huge, unwieldy glass globe, filled with 
water, of which Seneca speaks with wonder, and which the 
Arab Al Hazem perhaps already employed to magnify 
small objects ! Now the general on the battle-field, and 
the bold sea-captain on the wide ocean, marshal their 
Avide-scattered forces by the aid of their glasses. But 
the greatest of triumphs it accomplishes in the hands 
of the Astronomer. The whole world lies before him; 
with one glance he looks through unmeasured space and 
into times unknown to man. The secrets of the Universe 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

are laid open to him ; the stars reveal to him the eternal 
laws of the world, and his mind is lifted up to the In- 
finite. Step by step the despised pebble thus becomes 
the teacher of mankind. He tempts the mind of man 
from invention to invention, he becomes glass, lens, tel- 
escope. And he is, perhaps, greater yet when he leads 
man not to the infinitely great, but to the infinitely small. 
How diminutive appears the microscope by the side of 
the gigantic telescope of Lord Rosse! And yet who dare 
say which is the greater, the world in the blue heavens 
above, or the world in the drop of water? Truly, the 
pebble has become light itself ; it has shown man two 
invisible worlds : the great, lost in unraeasurable distance, 
the small, lost in invisible diminutiveness. The pebble 
is the restless spirit of the world of stones, that yearneth 
and travaileth after light. It enters the service of man 
and, a slave, it becomes his master. It endows him with 
unknown worlds; it awakes in him living, heaven-inspired 
thoughts — surely, it is more than "only a pebble!" 

Nature in Motion. 



•'"We sleep and -wake and sleep, but all things move; 
The sun flies forward to his brother sun; 
The dark earth follows wheeled in her ellipse; 
And human things returning in themselves 
Move onward, leading up the golden year."— Tennyson. 

O vulgar error has perhaps longer prevailed among 

men, than that of the permanency and immutability 
of our globe. The world is not at rest. The peace in 
which our mother earth seems to slumber, is but an 
illusion : in all nature nothing is ever inactive. The 
moon around the earth, the earth around the sun, that 
sun around another great centre, and all the heavenly 
bodies in one unbroken circle around the throne of the 
Almighty — all are in restless motion, treading their path 
in the great world of the Lord and praising his name 
in never-ceasing anthems. 

But even at home, our own great mother earth is not, 
as many still believe, at rest, and her very foundations 
are every now and then giving signs of the mysterious 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

life which is throbbing in this vast globe. Meteoric 
stones, also, come like aerial messengers from distant, 
unknown spheres, and speak loudly of the life in spaces 
unknown to human vision. For stones travel as well as 
life-endowed organic bodies; they are, in fact, the very 
oldest travellers on eai'th of whom we have any knowl- 
edge. The mountains are not everlasting, and the sea 
is not eternal. Thousands of years ago, rocks began to 
shiver in the fierce cold of the polar regions; even 
Sweden and Norway, Greenland and Spitzbergen, became 
intolerable, and they set out on their great journey to 
the warmer South. But huge, unwieldy travellers as they 
were, they soon tired and rested awhile in the wide, 
sandy wastes which stretch through Northern Europe and 
Asia. Some, the large ones, remained there, bleak, blasted 
masses of rock, sterile and stern, like grim giants of dark, 
old ages. Their lighter companions, smaller and swifter, 
rolled merrily on towards the foot of mountains, and 
there they also lie, scattered over the plains of Europe 
and Siberia. Science calls them " erratic" stones, the 
people know them as " foundlings," for there they are, 
like lost children, belonging to another climate and a dif- 
ferent race from those which surround them. When they 
travelled, man knows not. It must have been in times 
of yore, however, when the great Northern Ocean covered 
yet, with its dark waves, mountain and forest in the very 
heart of the continent. Other blocks travelled against 
their will, packed up in snow and ice. Whole islands 
of ice, we know, were torn off by terrible convulsions 
from the coasts of Scandinavia ; the storm-tossed sea 

Nature in Motion. 31 

hurled them into her powerful currents, and thus they 
were carried southward, bearing on their broad shoulders 
liuge masses" of rock that had rolled down upon thoni 
from their native mountains. These gigantic guests from 
the North soon stranded iigainst the mountains of the 
continent; they melted under a more genial sun, and 
their burden fell to the ground. When, afterwards, the 
bottom of this vast sea rose and became dry land, these 
foreign visitors also rose with it, and found themselves, 
with amazement, in a southern country, under a southern 

How long ago these early travels were made by rock 
and stone, we know not ; but they are by no means at 
an end. The same process is still going on, even now. 
The Arctic still sends her children out to dwell in warmer 
climes, and year after year sees wandering stones come 
from high, icy regions, and tumble into the Atlantic, or 
strand on the low shores at the mouth of the St. Law- 
rence. If the bottom^ of the sea on the banks of New- 
foundland is ever to see the sweet light of heaven, it 
will be found strewn with mighty rocl:s from Greenland, 
and our children's children may yet erect a monument 
to the great father of our country, hewn out of Green- 
land stone. 

Other rocks are sea-born. Lofty mountains, now capped 
with snow and wrapped in clouds, bear nnmistakeable 
evidence that they once dwelt at the very bottom of the 
ocean. Sandstone blocks, piled up high mitil they form 
large mountain chains, on which gigantic trees are deeply 
rooted, and the birds of heaven dwell, to whose summit 


Leaves fuom the Book of Nature. 

men now painfully climb to look down upon the sunny 
plain, were once mere loose, fragile sand down in the 
deep of the sea. They are still mixed with countless 
shells, the bones of fishes, and a thousand relics of their 
former home. On the other hand, we know that large 
tracts of seorbottom once belonged to the firm land, en- 
joyed air, light, and warmth, and abounded with life of 
every kind. But the sea came and buried them in 
eternal darkness. For the ocean, also, the infinite, is not 
the same to-day that it was yesterday — it changes form 
and shape like everything else on earth. The very heart 
of the earth is restless. Its glow and its pulse are felt 
through the whole globe, and in its gigantic vigor it 
seems ever anxious to break the fetters that hold it a 
captive. For the earth longs to live, to live in com- 
munion with the great elements around it — and volcanoes, 
with their huge, gaping craters, must serve to keep up 
the desired intercourse between its unknown interior and 
the atmosphere. Fused, molten stones are thus dragged 
from their hidden resting-places in the depths of the 
earth, passed through fiery ovens, and at last, in fierce 
fury, thrown out of volcanoes, where, as lava streams, they 
soon become solid, fertile, and fruit-bearing, or form new 
mountains on land, new islands in the ocean. 

Even now, stones still migrate, thanks to their old 
friends ice glaciers of vast, gigantic size, that move foot 
by foot. Their motion is slow but sure: the glacier of 
Grindelwald advances only about twenty-five feet a year, 
but a signal-post fastened to a large granite block em- 
beded in the Unteraar glacier progressed at the rate of 

Nature in Motion. 


nearly a thousand feet annually. Thus, stones travel on 
the back of icy waves from the mountaui top to the foot 
of the Alps, where they form grotesque groups and lofty 
ramparts, or lie scattered about on the plain, like the 
giant rocks of Stonehenge. 

They have, however, one mode of travel unlike all 
other kinds of locomotion, and so mysterious that human 
science has not yet fathomed its nature. Large masses 
of rock, namely, of truly gigantic dimensions, when by 
accident they fall into the deep crevices of these glaciers, 
return with quiet but irresistible energy to the surface, 
moving slowly steadily upward. Thus, not unfrequently 
vast pyramids or stately pillars of ice, broken loose from 
the mother glacier, are seen standing in isolated grandeur 
and crowned with huge masses of stone. After a while 
the strange forms change and melt, the rock sinks deeper 
and deeper, until at last it is lost to sight, deeply buried 
in snow and ice. Yet, after a time, it reappears above, 
and the Swiss say, the glacier purifies itself For, strange 
as it seems, the glacier does not suffer either block or 
grain of sand within its clear, transparent masses, and 
though covered for miles with millions of crumbling 
stones, with heaps of foliage and debris of every kind — 
at the foot of the mountain it is so clear and pure, 
that even the microscope fails to discern the presence of 
foreign bodies in its limpid waters. What is equally - 
amazing is, that whilst all weighty objects, leaves, insects, 
dead bodies, stones, or gravel, sink alike into the cold 
bed, the organic parts decay quickly in the frozen, rigid 
mass, but the inorganic parts are thrown up again. Years 

34 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

ago, a horse fell into one of these glaciers; it sank, mark- 
ing its outline distinctly, until it was seen no more. A 
year afterwards the clean, white skeleton projected from 
the top through the clear ice. In the middle of the six- 
teenth century a succession of long winters, during which 
immense masses of snow fell, increased the glaciers so 
much, that they travelled faster and lower than usually, 
and in their course overwhelmed a little chapel at the 
foot of the Grindelwald. All was covered, mountains high, 
with snow and ice, and so remained for years, buried in 
ghastly silence. But lo ! all of a sudden there appeared 
a black ungainly mass, high up on the glittering field — 
it was the chapel bell ! Pious hands saved it, carried 
it to a neighboring town, and there the long-buried bell 
now rings merrily Sabbath after Sabbath. 

If stones travel thus by the aid of majestic glaciers 
slowly downwards, they have to perform their journeys 
from below upward in much less time. That fierce ele- 
ment which many believe to be still raging under the 
thin crust which we inhabit, breaks out every now and 
then through the great safety-valves that nature has pro- 
vided. Already, Strabo and Pausanias tell us how, nearly 
three hundred years before Christ, the mountain Methone 
arose on the Troicenian plain. Ovid, also, describes, in 
beautiful verses, how a high hill, rigid and treeless, was 
suddenly seen where once a fair plain had been spread 
out. He traces it to vapors shut up in dark caverns 
below, and seeking, in vain, an outlet through some cleft. 
The soil began, at last, to heave, he says, and to swell 
under the pressure of the pent-up heat, until it finally 

Nature in Motion. 


yielded, and rose to a lofty height. Every age has seen 
huge rocks and large mountains appear thus unexpectedly 
on the surface of the globe. In the last century, the 
volcano of Jorullo rose, in Mexico, 1580 feet above the 
surrounding plain. The sea, also, has its volcanic moun- 
tains, which are of a sudden thrown up from the bottom. 
The famous island of Santorin, in 1810 still considerably 
below the surface, was in 1830 only a few feet from it. 
It appeared as an enormous peak, steep on all sides, but, 
on the top, presenting the crater of a sub-marine volcano. 
The igneous nature of the land below is strongly shown 
by sulphuric vapors, which rise so actively, that ships now 
anchor there in order to clean their copper thoroughly 
and quickly. Stromboli, also, was, in like manner, sent 
up from the deep, to take its place among the islands 
of the Mediterranean; and, although Italy is now com- 
paratively quiet, still its volcanoes pour forth inexhaustible 
showers of burning matter, and temporary islands start up 
now and then from the surrounding sea. 

Tremendous in their birth, and gigantic in their effect, 
these sudden outbreaks can yet not compare, in their 
permanent importance, with the quiet and almost imper 
ceptible migration of small particles of sand and gravel. 
Large granite blocks and masses of sandstone, high on 
lofty mountain tops, are exposed to the varying influence 
of heat and cold, rain and snow, and crumble, gradually, 
into coarse-grained sand. Wind and weather, clouds and 
springs, carry this down, where the restless waves of rivers 
and streams seize it and hurry it on, through vale and 
valley, on their long journey, until, at last, they reach 


the coast, and throw their burden into the great ocean. 
Thus, age after age, the loftiest parts of heaven-aspiring 
mountains are broken to pieces, and swallowed by the 
ever-hungry sea. There, by their own gravity, and by 
the weight of the impending waters, , they are pressed 
together, firmly and solidly, until they form new rocks, 
which human eyes do not see, and which, for thousands 
of years, may not be called upon to take their place 
upon the dry land. So that, if the ocean swallows 
mountains, they, in return, have their revenge, and fill up 
the sea, slowly and unseen, but with unerring certainty. 
Such is the might of small things upon earth. 

Slow as this process is, its effects are astounding. For, 
the same abrasion and dilution has been going on for 
centuries, and gigantic rivers have ever since poured their 
contents into the ocean. Overcoming all obstacles, rush- 
ing, rolling gaily down from their mountain homes, falling 
over huge precipices, running past rocky ridges, they 
hurry on without rest and ceasing. Where do they rush 
to, so eagerly ? Towards certain death, in the great 
ocean ! For, no sooner have they reached the distant 
shore, than their course is arrested — here they drop all 
the solid parts with which they were loaded, and thus 
form themselves a barrier against their further jDrogress. 

These deposits form shoals and bars; they grow, as 
year after year brings new additions from the far-oflT 
mountains, until hills rise below the surface : the river 
has to divide, in order to pass them on both sides, and, 
at last, the increasing sands appear above the water in 
the shape of a delta. Thus, new land is formed by these 

Nature in Motion. 


almost invisible particles, and how much is thus dropped 
may be seen from the river Rhone, which is a thick, 
muddy stream where it enters the Lake of Geneva, but 
leaves it a clear, beautiful river. The same process has 
actually choked up the mouths of the Ehine and the Dan- 
ube ; and the Nile, whose sand-laden waters have literally 
formed all Lower Egypt with its countless inhabitants 
and large populous cities, now needs a canal, made by 
human hands, to find a way and an outlet to the Med- 
iterranean! Our own great river, the Mississippi, be- 
comes, at its mouth, so slow and sluggish, that it can 
no longer bear up its burden, the immense masses of 
huge vegetable corpses, the giant trees from the far-off 
regions, where its sources lie. They sink to the ground, 
sand and mud fill the interstices up, and they form, here 
as at the mouths of all large rivers, a peninsula of new, 
firm land. The Ganges, operating on a still larger scale, 
pours its gigantic masses far out into the sea : sweet 
water being lighter than salt-water, they float for some 
time above the dark green waves of the ocean; but, 
soon they meet the tide and outside breakers; here they 
drop their immense loads of sand, mud, and fertile soil, 
and, in spite of an unusually high tide, form an island 
more than two hundred miles long. 

The power of locomotion is, however, by no means 
limited to the agency of water and fire alone. Much 
more remarkable is it, that even without volcanic action 
— without visible efforts or spasmodic convulsions of our 
mother earth — whole tracts of land, thousands of square 
miles large, should move up and down, and, thus, ma- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

terially alter the appearance of our globe. It has been 
said, that there are few places on earth which are ever 
long at rest; and that, as England, alone, has had its 
two hundred and fifty-fivc earthquakes, so some convul- 
sion of the kind is constantly occurring, imperceptible to 
our senses, but distinctly felt and shown by the delicate 
instruments which modern science has invented for the 
purpose. This, however, would not explain the changes 
alluded to ; they are on far too vast a scale to be 
ascribed to such local disturbances. Almost in every 
portion of our globe, movement may be observed; the 
land is either rising or sinking — certainly in slow, but 
constant motion. Geology teaches us, that this is not a 
whim of our mother Earth, but that, for long genera- 
tions, the same change, the same mysterious motion has 
been going on. It is difficult, only, to observe it, be- 
cause of its exceeding slowness, as we would in vain 
hope to mark the progress of the hour-hand in our 
watches, and yet, finally, see that it has moved. If man 
could ever, with one vast glance, take in the whole 
earth — if he could look back into past ages, and, with 
prophetic eye, gaze into the future, he would see the 
land of our vast continents heave and sink like the 
storm tossed sea — now rising in mountains, and then 
sinking and crumbling, in a short time afterwards to be 
washed back into the caljTii impassive ocean. Some of 
these inexplicable changes have been observed for ages. 
The whole coast of Asia Minor, from Tyre to Alexan- 
dria, has been sinking since the days of Ancient Eome. 
Northern Russia, on the contrary, has risen as constantly 

Nature in MoTibN. 


out of the frozen sea, in which it has been buried 
since the days when it was the home of those gigantic 
mammoths that are now found there encased and pre- 
served in eternal ice, to feed with their flesh the hungry 
natives, and to furnish the world with the produce of 
strange, inexhaustible ivory mines. Not far from Naples, 
near Puzzuoli, there are parts of an ancient temple of 
the Egyptian god Serapis still standing — three beautiful 
columns, especially, speak of its former splendor. At a 
considerable height, they present the curious sight of 
being worm-eaten; and recent, careful researches leave no 
doubt, that the waters of the Mediterranean once covered 
them so high as to bring these, their upper parts, within 
reach of the sea-worms. Since then, the land has risen 
high; but, stranger still, they are, by a mysterious force, 
once more to be submerged. Already, the floor of the 
temple is again covered with water; and a century hence, 
new generations of molluscs may dwell in the same 
abandoned hom^es of their fathers, which are now beyond 
the reach of the highest waves. An old Capuchin monk, 
who lives near by, is fond of telling visitors how he, 
himself, in his youth, had gathered grapes in the vine- 
yards of his convent, over which now fisherboats pass 
in deep water. Venice, also, the venerable city of the 
doges, sinks — year after year — deeper into the arms of 
her betrothed bride, as if to hide her shame and her 
disgrace in the bosom of the Adriatic. Already in 1722, 
when the pavement of the beautiful place of S. Marco 
was taken up, the w^orkmen found, at a considerable depth 
below, an ancient pavement, which was then far below 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

water-mark. Now, the Adriatic has again encroached 
upon the twice raised square ; at high-water, magazines 
and churches are flooded, and if proper measures are not 
taken in time, serious injury must inevitably follow. 
Not far from there, at Zara, superb antique mosaics may 
be seen, in clear weather, under the water : and, on the 
southern side of the island of Bragnitza, at calm sea, 
your boat glides over long rows of magnificent stone 
sarcophagi, far below the clear, transparent surflice. 

Trance also bears many an evidence of such changes 
in place. The unfortunate St. Louis embarked at the 
spacious port of Aigues Mortes for his ill-fated crusade; 
the place — a harbor no more — is now at a mile's dis- 
tance from shore. Only in the last century, in 1752, 
an English ship stranded near La Eochelle, on an oyster- 
bank, and was abandoned. Now the wreck lies in the 
midst of a cultivated field, thirteen feet above sea, and 
around it the industrious inhabitants have gained over 
two thousand acres of fertile land in less than twenty- 
five years. England presents similar instances; thus, the 
bay at Hithe, in Kent, was formerly considered an ex- 
cellent harbor ; it is now, in spite of great pains and 
much labor bestowed on it, firm land and very good 
pasture for cattle. 

These gradual and almost imperceptible changes of land 
have probably been most carefully observed in Sweden, 
where already, in the times of Celsius, the people be- 
lieved that the water was slowly withdrawing from the 
land. The great geologist Buch has since proved that, 
north of the province of Scania, Sweden is rising at the 

Nature in Motion. 


rate of from three to five feet a century, whilst south 
of this line, it is sinking in proportion. Some villages 
in southern Scania are now three hundred feet nearer to 
the Baltic than they were in the days of Linnaeus, who 
measured the distance a hundred years ago. Historical 
evidence abounds as to this mysterious movement of a 
whole continent ; the coasts of Norway and England 
bear, moreover, ample proof on their surface. Nearly 
six hundred feet above the actual level, long, clear lines 
of the former level may be seen, distinctly marked by 
horizontal layers of shells, not of extinct species, but of 
such as are still found in the adjoining waters. As we 
go further south,, the land seems to sink: all along the 
coast of Germany and Holland legends and traditions are 
found, speaking of lost cities and inundated provinces. 
The Germans have their songs of the great city of 
Iduna, in the Northern Sea, the bells of whose churches 
may still be heard, in dream-like knelling, on a quiet, 
calm Sabbath-day; and in Holland they tell of the 
steeples and towers that can be seen in clear weather, 
far down in the Zuyder Sea. Stern reality shows that 
these are not idle inventions; it is well-known that great 
cities, large islands, and whole provinces have actually 
been engulfed, and in both countries man is even now 
incessantly at work to protect the sinking shore against 
the encroaching waves. In Greenland, the level changes 
so much, and the ocean intrudes so fast, that the Mora- 
vian settlers had more than once to move the poles to 
which they moored their boats, nearer inland. On the 
low, rocky islands around, and on the mainland itself, 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

numberless ancient buildings have been submerged, and 
for ages the inhabitants have ventured no longer to build 
near the sea-coast. 

For the sea also has its strange motions like the firm 
land — gentle, progressive oscillations which return at stated 
periods, or act with sudden force. In the South Sea, we 
are told, the bottom of the sea rises and sinks in regular 
alternation; the same occurs near the coast of Chili, 
teaching us by land and by water, the inconstancy of 
the present order of things, and the changes to which, 
at great intervals, the outlines of our continents are 
probably subject. Truly He alone, who is our God, He 
changes not. 

Thus, all is Iffe and motion in the earth, on the earth 
and around it. What a source of incessant movement 
is even the sun alone ! From the bottom of the ocean 
it raises high into the air the rivers that are to water 
the two worlds. The sun orders the winds to distribute 
them over continents and islands, and these invisible chil- 
dren of the air carry them under a thousand capricious 
forms from land to land. They spread them across the 
sky in golden veils and purple hangings; they raise them 
into huge dark domes, threatening deluge and destruction. 
They pour them in tempestuous torrents upon high 
mountains ; they let them drop gently upon the thirsty 
plains. Now they shape them in beautiful crystals of 
snow, and now shower down pearls of peerless beauty 
in clear, transparent dewdrops. However whimsical their 
service seems to be, each part of our globe receives, 
nevertheless, jecxv by year, only its proper and good pro- 

Nature in Motion. 


portion. Each river fills its bed ; each naiad her shell. 
And the winds themselves, what busy travellers are not 
they in their own great realm of the air ! They blow 
where they list and we hear the sound thereof, but we 
cannot tell whence they come and whither they go. A 
merry life they lead, these sailors of the air. Now they 
chase golden clouds high up in the blue ether, and now 
they descend to rock in merry sport gigantic oaks and 
Northern firtrees. As pleasant pastime they give life to 
wandering shadows, wake the slumbering echo, and gather 
rich perfumes from the flowery meadow. To-day they 
bend down vast oceans of gracefully waving corn-fields; 
to-morrow they peep under the branches of trees to look 
for golden fruit, or they strip them of their leaves to 
show to man through their bare arms, the blue heavens 
above. On sultry days they cool themselves in the floods 
of the ocean, and carry refreshing dew back to the 
parched land. Passing on their manifold errands, they 
trace their characters in a thousand ways on the liquid 
plains of the sea. Some scarcely wrinkle the placid 
surface, others furrow it deeply with azure waves, or toss 
it up in raging billows and cover their crests v/ith white 

Such are evidences of motion in Inorganic Nature. If 
organic bodies travel faster and more visibly, they leave, 
on the other hand, fewer great marks behind them. 
Rocks, when they wander, remain themselves as milestones, 
by which we may count the distance from which they 
came. Men keep in sagas and myths a certain hold on 
the past, or erect, with their own hands, monuments of 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

great events. But plants and animals consist, at best, 
only of perishing individuals, and have no power given 
them to speak to future ages. What we know, there- 
fore, of their wanderings is little, but even that little 
gives us such an insight into the inner life and motion 
of Nature, that it is well worth recording. 

Plants have ever travelled most and furthest of all 
children of this earth. Much has been said and much 
has been written about poor flowers, these true and gen- 
uine children of their mother earth, coming directly out 
of her bosom, and ever busy to draw from the air of 
heaven food for their great parent. Often have they 
been pitied because they are chained to the soil, whilst 
their own shadow, as in mockery, dances around them 
and marks the passing hours of sunshine. Trees have 
been called the true symbols of that longing for heaven 
which is innate in man's soul. Bound for life to one 
small spot on earth, they are represented as stretching 
out widely their broad branches, far beyond the reach of 
humble roots, trying to embrace the balmy air, to drink 
in the golden light of the sun, and to arrest the very 
clouds in their aerial flight. 

But in reality plants travel flir and fast. It is true, 
they perform their journeys mostly in the seed ; but there 
is, perhaps, no earthly kind of locomotion which they do 
not employ for their purpose. Wind and water, the beasts 
of the field and the winged creatures of heaven, above 
all, Man himself — all have been pressed into their service, 
to carry them from sea to sea, and from shore to shore. 
Countless powers of Nature are incessantly at work to 

Nature in Motion. 


scatter the blessings of the vegetable world over the 
nations of the world. Almost one-fourth of all plants 
upon earth bear seeds that are provided with wings, para- 
chutes, or other contrivances, by means of which they 
may be carried on the wings of the wind to distant 
regions. Every brook and every river, even a short-lived 
rain, carry a thousand plants to remote countries. The 
great ocean itself, on its mighty currents, bears fruits and 
nuts from island to island, and every coral reef in the 
South Sea is almost instantly covered with a rich, luxu- 
riant vegetation. 

New plants appear thus constantly, where they were 
formerly not found, whilst of the disappearance of ve- 
getables there are but few isolated instances known. 
Thus, Egyptian monuments have in their quaint and 
well-preserved paintings, three kinds of sea-rose ; only two 
of these are now met v»'ith in Egypt or the adjoining 
countries; the third is not found there or anywhere over 
the wide world. 

The most efficient agent employed by plants for their 
journeys is man himself History and science both teach 
us that the heated air, which, coming from the poles and 
rushing to the equator, there falls in with the great life- 
artery of the globe, and in a constant, almost organic 
current follows the apparent course of the sun from east 
to west, gives us the direction in which all life and 
motion proceeds upon earth. This great movement, no 
doubt as old as the globe itself, and yet the last known 
to man, is still going on ; and whilst history furnishes us 
with a vast number of well authenticated facts, the pre- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

sent day verifies and substantiates them more and more 
clearly. All good things, it has been truly said, come 
from the Orient. 

Plants also seem to have their common home in the 
East, from whence they have travelled and scattered in 
all directions, far and wide. We mean not to speak 
here of the first epoch in the history of the earth, when 
islands rose out of a vast chaotic ocean, covered with 
plants w^hich thence spread over the globe, wandering 
from the equator to the poles, and from high mountains 
to humble valleys. We speak not of the days when 
palm-trees and ferns were buried under the eternal snows 
of northern seas. Of those grand movements we have 
as yet too little positive knowledge. But we can follow, 
in comparatively modern times, the migrations of some 
plants, step by step, and we always see them travel 
from the rising towards the' setting sun. Coffee and tea, 
sugar and cotton, bananas and spice, all were first known 
in the far East, and have, from thence, slowly followed 
the apparent light to the West. Alexander the Great 
brought from his expeditions the broad bean and cucum- 
ber to Greece, and flax and hemp are of Indian birth. 

Most important, however, for the life of man, and there- 
fore his most faithful companions in his own great jour- 
neys, are the grasses. It is these which mainly feed him 
and domestic animals. Tropical regions certainly produce 
the breadfruit, cocoanut, and date, which support man 
spontaneously all the year round ; but they are bound to 
and confined within small districts, and cannot be trans- 
planted. Providence, therefore, has endowed some grasses 

Nature in Motion, 


— and these the most essential to man — with greater 
flexibility of structure, so that he may carry them with 
him wherever he wanders. He is, after all, not the master 
of creation ; ho cannot at will alter the natural distri- 
bution of vegetables, to suit his pleasure or to satisfy 
his wants. Hence he has been compelled to choose, all 
over the world, among the four thousand varieties of 
grasses which adorn our generous earth, some twenty 
kinds only, which will in one summer, in a few months, 
produce rich food, independent of the dry heat of the 
tropics and the rigid cold of the North. It is they 
which mark the periods in man's history ; with them 
came everywhere civilization in the change from a wan- 
dering, pastoral life to the higher grade of permanent 
agriculture. Thus, the great phases of man's history are 
written also on the green pages of the vegetable world. j 
At a very early period already these cerealia must have 
come from the Eden of God into the fields of man. 
Their subsequent path may be distinctly traced from 
nation to nation, but the unfathomable antiquity of their 
first culture is clearly seen in the fact that, in spite of 
the most careful researches, the genuine natural home 
of the more important varieties has never been dis- 
covered. Their original source is wrapped in the same 
mystery which hides the first history of those domestic 
animals that have accompanied man all over, the globe 
since his earliest migrations. They are, in truth, home- 
less. After tracing them up through a few centuries, we 
reach traditions and myths only, which invariably point 
to the gods themselves as the first givers of these rich 

48 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

blessings. In India Brahma descended from heaven for 
that purpose, in Egypt Isis ; Greece owed the gift to her 
Demeter, Rome to Ceres. The ancient Peruvians even 
had similar legends about the oi'igin of maize, which 
the bold Spaniards, who invaded their ancient kingdom, 
found cultivated on sacred ground around the Incas' 
Temple of the Sun, at an elevation of 12,000 feet above 
the sea. The ripened grain was solemnly sacrificed to 
their god or distributed among the people who ascribed 
to it miraculous powers. But, setting these fables aside, 
both tradition and history point invariably to the East 
as the land from which these grasses first came. Myths 
even lose them on the high table-lands of Asia, where, 
it has been conjectured, a late and last rise of the land 
in distant ages, and a sudden elevation of mountains may 
have scattered them so, that they can no longer be found 
even in their original fatherland. Now they are met with 
only cultivated or run wild, and even ancient Sanscrit has 
no proper word for them, but calls wheat already food 
of Barbarians, thus indicating its Northwestern origin. 

Not all nations, however, can lay equal claim to the 
distribution of these noble gifts of nature. It is the 
Caucasian races alone who have caused the migrations 
of the most important plants from their original home, 
wherever that may be, to the four quarters of the globe. 
Europeans have, by degrees, transplanted to their own 
land all the characteristic plants of other races. They 
have fetched the finer fruits, the almond, apricot, and 
peach, from Persia and Asia Minor; they have brought 
the orange from China, transplanted rice and cotton to 

Nature in Motion. 


the shores of the IMediterranean, and carried maize and 
potatoes from America to Europe. But the influence of 
these races in changing the natural distribution of plants 
is even more evident in the colonies which they have 
established abroad. These they have endowed not only 
with their own vegetables, but also with those which w^ould 
not flourish in Europe, but might thrive in more favored 
regions. Thus we find all European corn-plants in every 
part of America; the vine has been carried to Madeira 
and the Canaries, to the southern parts of Africa, and 
America, ; rice and cotton are raised in vast quantities 
m the United States and in Brazil ; nutmeg and clove 
have found their way to Mauritius, Bourbon, and the "West 
India Islands, and tea is now cultivated in Brazil, India, 
and Java. Other races have done but little; the Arabs 
helped to difl'use cotton, which the ancients already knew 
in India, and later in Egypt, coffee, sugar, and the date- 
palm ; the Chinese have imported cotton from Hindostan, 
and the Japanese tea from China. 

The earliest grains known in Europe were undoubtedly 
wheat and barley, although even the oldest authors are 
at variance as to their first home. Charred grains of 
both are found in Pompeii, and pictures on the walls 
of the silent city show quails picking grains out of a 
spike of barley. The Bible, Homer, and Herodotus, al- 
ready mention them as widely diffiised, and Diodorus 
Siculus even speaks of the belief entertained by many, 
that wheat grew wild in the Leontine fields and several 
other places in Sicily. So certain is it that antiquity 
itself was at a loss- where to fix the original abode of 


Leaves fkom the Book of Nature. 

these grasses; all references, however, point to India, and 
yet Humboldt tells us, that the varieties there found in 
our day bear unmistakable evidence that they were once 
cultivated, and have but recently become outcasts. The 
Spaniards carried wheat to North America; a negro slave 
of the great Cortes was the first who cultivated it in 
New Spain, beginning with three grains which he had ac- 
cidentally found among the rice brought out as provisions 
for the army. At Quito, they show to this day, in a 
Franciscan convent, the earthen vessel which had con- 
tained the first wheat sown there by a monk, a native 
of Flanders, in front of his convent, after cutting down 
the original forest. The great Humboldt says, justly, in 
connection with this fiict : " Would that the names had 
been j)reserved, not of those who made the earth desolate 
by bloody conquests, but of those who intrusted to it first 
these, its fruits, so early associated with the civilization 
of mankind." Barley, which Homer mentions as the food 
of his heroes' horses, has at least this merit, that it is 
the most widely spread of all the nutritious grasses. It 
is known from the utmost boundary of culture in Lap- 
land down to the elevated plains near the equator. 

At a much later period, rye was brought to Europe; 
at the time of Galenus it found its way through Thracia 
into Greece, and Pliny speaks of it as having been 
brought from Tauria by Massilian merchants; in his day 
it was occasionally met with in the neighborhood of 
Turin. Serbian Wendes brought it, in the seventh cen- 
tury to Germany, where Charlemagne at once distinguishe 1 
its great importance, and wisely encouraged its culture, 

Nature m Motion. 


so that it soon spread over the continent, and now sus- 
tains at least one-third of its inhabitants. This grass 
also was apparently found growing wild in the Caucasus, 
but more careful observations have since shown that the 
presumed originals were a different species : their stems 
were so brittle that they could not be threshed. More 
recently still, oats were brought to Europe from the 
East, and whilst in Greece they were only used as green 
fodder, Pliny already represents the Germans as living 
upon oat groats, a dainty which they have by no means 
abandoned since. 

Rice seems at a very early period of European history 
to have acquired no small importance among the more 
widely diffused grasses. Hence we can more easily follow 
its gradual migrations from its home in India, to which, 
even the Sanscrit name Vri points, and where the Danish 
missionary, Klein, believes that he found it growing wild, 
to various parts of the world. In the East, we know, 
it was from the times of antiquity the principal article 
of food; at the time of Alexandar the Great it was 
cultivated as far as the lower Euphrates, and from thence 
it was carried to Egypt. The Romans do not seem to 
have known it. The Arabs, however, brought it, after 
their great conquests in Africa, Sicily, and Spain, to 
Southern Europe. North America knows it only since 
the beginning of the last century, but produces now a 
large proportion of all the rice consumed in the Old 

The New World claims maize alone as its own in- 
digenous product among the nutritious grasses. But even 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

this is not allowed witnout some opposition. Thcophrastus 
speaks of -a certain peculiar wheat, with grains of the size 
of an olive kernel, which came from India ; and many 
believe that this cannot have been anything else but 
maize. They try to strengthen their position by the fact, 
that not one of the many carefully searching travellers in 
America has CTcr yet found maize growing otherwise 
than cultivated or evidently run wild. Its names in 
European languages certainly refer it to the East. Ger- 
many and Italy call it " Turkish wheat," and the Greeks 
also point with their "Arabic wheat," to an Oriental 

It is almost cruel not to allow this continent the merit 
of being, at least, the original home of the potato, as is 
generally believed. It was said to grow wild in Peru, 
Chili, and Mexico, but learned botanists and careful obser- 
vers have since ascertained that the tuber there found is 
not the common parent, but only a different species of 
the numerous genus to which the potato belongs. An- 
other curious evidence is, that in Mexico itself, only quite 
recently, attempts have been made along the coast to 
raise potatoes, mainly for the purpose of giving to Eu- 
ropeans in the so-called home of that most useful plant, 
the flivorite vegetable of their own mother country. But 
alas! they have stoutly refused to grow any longer in the 
presumed land of their fathers, and every effort has, so 
flir, signally failed. 

As every great good has its necessary evil, and as every 
army of brave soldiers is almost inevitably followed by 
crowds of stragglers and robbers, so man also has been 

Nature in Motion. 


compelled to take along with these eminently useful 
grasses their inseparable companions, a whole rabble of 
weeds, thorns, and thistles. Most of these, as now found 
in our fields, came, without doubt, with the cerealia. In 
still larger numbers, however, and without the agency of 
man, certain other plants attach themselves to the lord 
of creation and follow him wherever he goes, and builds 
himself huts. These seem not to be bound to their 
kinsfolk, the grains and grasses, but to man's own im- 
mediate home ; they settle with never-failing punctuality 
around his house, near to his stable, or luxuriate on his 
dunghill. Travellers can thus trace, as the celebrated 
Augustin St. Hilaire did in Brazil, by the mere presence 
of weeds, even in the midst of a desert, the place of 
abandoned and utterly destroyed settlements. Stranger 
still is it, that the different races of men have different 
kinds of weeds following in their wake, so that a careful 
observer can, in travelling, see at once, by merely no- 
ticing the prevailing weeds, w^hether Europeans or Asiatics, 
Germans or Slaves, Negroes or Indians, have dwelt at 
certain places. It was not without good reason, then, 
that some of our Indian tribes called the common plain- 
tain in their language " the white man's footstep ;" a 
simple but distinct vetch marks in like manner, even now, 
long after the entire abandonment of the land, the for- 
mer dwelling places of Norwegian colonists in Greenland. 
Historians, also, may thus learn yet many a lesson, even 
from weeds, as to the direction and length of the great 
migrations of the human race. One of the most remark 
able instances of the kind is perhaps the almost univerPAl 

54 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

dispersion of the deadly night-shade. It came at first 
from India, whence gipsies carried it over the wide world, 
making constant use of its medicinal virtues and vices. 
They always kept it on hand, and even raised it around 
their encampments, and thus it followed their trace from 
the far east to the far west. 

One peculiar effect of this migration in masses is, that 
certain plants, first introduced by man, have subsequently 
become so generally diffused, independent of his agency, 
as to displace, in some instances, the whole original flora 
of a country. The rich pampas of South America have 
thus been overrun with the artichoke and peach-tree of 
another continent ; immense tracts are now covered with 
these intruders from abroad, and rendered useless as pas- 
tures. Even islands have not escaped this fate. In St. 
Helena, original plants have almost entirely disappeared, 
and made room for those w^hich have been brought there 
from Europe and Asia. In eastern China the population 
is so dense, and the culture of the soil so high, that, 
with the exception of a few water-plants in skilfully- 
flooded rice-fields, all the plants which originally grew 
wild there, have been driven out. The whole land is now 
exclusively covered with grains raised by the hand of 
man, and the botanist finds, in the lowlands at least, not 
a single plant which is not artificially cultivated. 

Some plants thus literally conquer a country and banish 
the native inhabitants ; others disappear, not before ene- 
mies of their own race, but emigrate because of climatic 
changes. Palestine, which was once a land flowing with 
milk and honey, where the grape and the date abounded, 

Nature in Motion. 


is now utterly sterile. The spoiler is fallen upon her 
summer fruit and her vintage ; joy and gladness are taken 
from the plentiful field, and her plants are gone over 
the sea. Our common clover has distinctly marked its 
travelling-stations; requiring much moisture, it leffc Greece 
when her plains were scorched and withered ; Italy could 
not hold it, after repeated devastations, when it made its 
way into Southern Germany; from thence it is even now 
gradually wandering towards the moister regions of the 
North. No Pythagoras need forbid his disciples now the 
use of the bean, for Egypt is no longer able to produce 
it. The wine of Mareotis also, that inspired the guests 
of Cleopatra, and whose praises Horace has sung in such 
graceful verses, grows no more. The conscience-stricken 
murderer would find no shelter, in our day, in the pine- 
forests of Poseidon, where to lie in wait for the guests 
that wandered joyfully to the great festivals of Greece ; 
the pines have long since left the plain, with its hot, dry 
climate, and moved up to the cooler mountains. 

It need hardly be added, that all the finer fruits, also, 
have come to us from the East. The precious grape, 
the cooling cherry, the pomegranate and the peach, in fine 
all the luscious gifts of Autumn, we owe to the Orient. 
Italy is not originally 

"The land where the lemon-tree blows, 
In darker leaves bowered the gold orange glows," 

for Seville oranges and lemons came to Europe only 
through the Arabs. The latter are not even found on 
the walls of Pompeii, and the common orange, which is 


Leaves from the Book of JNature. 

a Chinese by birth, was brought to Europe first by bold 
Portuguese sailors. 

In Europe, these fruits lingered a while, were remodelled 
from their first rough shape, developed and refined, and 
then sent, ennobled in shape and quality, across the broad 
Atlantic. Here they have rapidly spread from State to 
State, and are even now on their way,^ through California, 
back to their original home. The day may not be fiir 
distant, when the youthful Union, which has already given 
grain back to starving Ireland, and loads the tables of 
the English with the finest apples the world knows, may 
send its grapes and unsurpassed nectarines to ancient 
Persia, from whence Europe received the hard, unflavored 
peach. Strange it is, that as Europe has never returned 
any similar gifts for the many presents it has received 
from the East, so America also has given to Europe 
nothing in return for her many kindnesses. For the 
whole rich blessing of our grain harvest, for the whole- 
some rice, the profitable cotton, for sugar and spice, 
oranges and pomegranates, all of which we owe to the 
Old World, we have sent back but two rather equivocal 
gifts. For smokers alone will be disposed to think the 
introduction of tobacco a real, valuable present. A plant 
which affords no edible root, fruit, or other nutritious part, 
distinguished neither by beauty nor by sweet odor ; but, 
on the contrary, by a disagreeable smell and taste ; which 
produces, when eaten, nausea, vomiting, and giddiness, and 
is, in large quantities or concentrated, even deadly poison 
— such a plant is surely at least a doubtful gift. So it is 
with the potato, which has long been considered by its 

Nature in Motion. 


enthusiastic admirers an incomparably rich gift of the 
West to the East, but which now might easily be looked 
upon as the fatal ft'uit marking in the annals of history 
the first decline of European nations. 

But even tobacco is not accepted as a ^ Western gift 
by all botanists. Although it is said that the Spaniards 
found it used in Mexico medicinally, especially in the 
treatment of wounds, and saw it smoked there, as the 
English did in Virginia, still it was certainly known as 
early as 1601 in Java and China, and there is good rea- 
son to believe at an even earlier date in China. Now, 
as tobacco did not reach Europe before 1559, when it 
was first used in Portugal — and, consequently, in Europe — ■ 
as medicine, it may at least have been known in Eastern 
Asia long before the discovery of America. Nature, 
moreover, seems almost desirous to avenge the unnatural 
movement from west to east by the rapid degeneration 
which marks the culture of both these vegetables in 
Europe. But even if maize really came from this con- 
tinent first, if the Indian fig and the closely related agave, 
which now grow wild around the Mediterranean and add 
so much to its picturesque scenery, have their true home 
in the New World, these two plants would still be the 
only ones that have ever travelled eastward, single and 
isolated exceptions to the great law of Nature, that plants, 
animals, and men, all must travel towards the setting sun. 

This mysterious but undeniable movement is still going 
on. It proceeds, even in our day, on a grand and im- 
posing scale, and essentially alters, from time to time, the 
vegetable character of whole countries, as they are newly 

58 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

discovered or newly settled. It shows us in indelible 
signs the silent, irresistible force with which humble plants 
prescribe their path on earth to both the animals that 
feed us and the different races of men. For such is the 
• strange relation between plants and man : they are of 
paramount importance for his existence not only, but also 
for his welfare. It is little to say that they feed and 
clothe him, and that they enable him to sustain the life 
of those animals, from whom he receives in return not 
only food and comfort, but, what is incomparably more 
valuable, service, affection, and gratitude! The cerealia 
have become the first, and most binding social tie between 
men, because their culture and preparation require vast 
labor and mutual service. As no society, moreover, can 
exist without laws, it may well be said, that these short- 
lived grasses are in truth the first cause of all legisla- 
tion. Not without good reason, then, was it that the 
Romans called their Ceres not only a goddess, but also 
a legislator. 

To the careless observer, animals seem to be as per- 
manent features in Nature as plants. Apparently the 
same sparrow picks up grains of wheat in the harvest- 
field that robbed our cherries in early summer, and the 
same game which our forefathers hunted, tempts us now 
in field and forest. 

It is, however, not so. The demoralized domestic an- 
imals, it is true, are nearly the same now that they ever 
were ; the same sheep of whom " Abel was a keeper," 
sleep night after night on our pastures, and the "cattle 
on a thousand hills" rove now on our plains. But all 

Nature in Motion. 


nobler, higher life among animals, moves restlessly round 
the globe. Here also there is an incessant going and 
coming, flying and pushing, an endless change of home, 
to exchange a used-up past for a promising future. 

No class of animals, high or low, escapes entirely the 
general law of movement, and if we read occasionally of 
flights of storks and shoals of herrings, these are mere 
anecdotes, nothing but single, detached features of that 
unwearied life which m^oves in grand and restless masses 
round the terrestrial . globe. 

Of the earliest migrations of animals, even of those 
whom man has bound up with his own existence, we 
know but very little. History, which tells us nothing of 
man's own first journeys, condescends not to speak of 
beings less noble. We guess, rather than we know, that 
the domestic animals at least left their common home 
in the great centre of all earthly life. Upper India, to- 
gether with the first migrating nations. We conclude this 
mainly from the fact that the races of men separated at 
a time when they were all shepherds. This we know 
from Language ; for in all idioms the words relating to 
pastoral life are cognate words, whilst in other respects 
the relationship is far more complicated and difficult to 
trace. A remarkable instance of this connection is the 
word "daughter" in German, " tochter," from the Greek 
■dvyarrip, which is in Sanscrit " duhitri," and there means 
"milking woman," because we know that it was the cus- 
tom of all pastoral nations to leave the milking of the 
herd to the daughter of the owner. The animals them- 
selves maintain a certain connection with their first home 


Leaves from 'mt Book of Nature. 

on earth, for most of them have still some wild rela- 
tions on the high table lands of Middle Asia, where, in 
primitive fierceness, strength, and beauty, they rove about, 
and race for hundreds of miles along the valleys to ex- 
change exhausted lands for new rich pastures. 

Animals, like plants, travel occasionally by means of 
the various agents whom nature herself places at their 
disposal. The giant rivers of the earth, the Ganges, 
Congo, Amazon, Orinoco, and Mississippi, annually float 
islands towards the ocean, covered with living inhabitants. 
Nothing is more common than to meet out at sea, thous- 
ands of miles from all land, masses of fucus floating on 
the surface of the water, and serving as a resting-place 
for small shell-fish, unable to 'transport themselves by 
swimming, far from their native shore. Off the Moluccas 
and Philippines, sailors often meet, after a typhoon, with 
floating islands of matted wood, full of life, and covered 
with large trees, so as to deceive their eyes, and to en- 
danger the safety of their vessels. Trunks of trees, also, 
are found drifting in the great currents of the ocean, 
perforated from end to end by the larvie of insects, and 
filled with the eggs of molluscs and fishes. At other 
times they have been known to convey lizards and birds 
from land to land, and on the island of San Vincent 
there appeared once a huge boa constrictor, twisted around 
a large, healthy cedar-tree, with which it had been torn 
from its home in the primeval forests of Brazil. It 
swallowed several sheep before it could be killed by the 
astonished natives. The gulf-stream, it is well known, 
carried, more than once, dead bodies of an unknown race 

Nature in Motion. 


with unusually broad faces, to the Azores, and thus con- 
tributed to the discovery of our continent by confirming 
Columbus in his faith in the existence of a New World. 
Greenlanders and Esquimaux have even been carried alive 
across the Atlantic, and found themselves, to their amaze- 
ment, on the coast of England. 

Nor are these always individual journeys. Currents of 
air carry myriads of vegetable seeds, and with them count- 
less eggs of insects and infusoria all over the world. To 
settle this formerly disputed question, a German philoso- 
pher, linger, placed several plates of glass, carefully 
cleaned, between the almost air-tight double sashes with 
which he protected his study against the rigors of a fierce 
northern climate. Six months later, he took them out 
and examined the dust that had fallen on them through 
imperceptible cracks and crevices, with the microscope. 
The result was, that he discovered, in the apparently in- 
organic dust, the pollen of eight distinct plants, the seeds 
of eleven varieties of fungus, the eggs of four higher in- 
fusoria, and living individuals of at least one genus ! 

But larger animals also are thus carried about by as 
yet little known modes of conveyance. There exist, among 
others, countless examples, from the oldest times to our 
own, of mice and rats, insects, fishes, and reptiles being 
carried off by storms and whirlwinds far from home. 
Only a few years ago, a long and violent rain in the 
heart of France brought with it millions of well-sized 
fishes, which were eagerly devoured by hosts of storks and 
crows, and other birds, that came suddenly from the four 
quarters of the wind, to share in the rich and unexpected 

62 Leaves from the Book of Nature, 

repast. Rains of frogs are even more frequent, and have, 
since the days of Moses, occurred in almost every 

Far more remarkable, however, are the spontaneous, 
though casual, journeys of certain animals ; as, for in- 
stance, those of the almost invisible gossamer of Europe, 
floating in the air on a silvery thread. They were a 
marvel to former days, and Chaucer even says — 

"As sore some wonder at the cause of thunder, 
On ebb and flood, on gosomer, and mist. 
And on all thing till the cause is wist." 

The tiny aeronauts may be seen, on almost any fine day 
in autumn, spinning a wondrously fine thread, without fas- 
tening it, and then letting it waft about, until it is strong 
enough to carry them. All of a sudden they shoot out 
their web, and mount aloft, even when no air is stirring. 
And on these slender threads they travel, we know not 
how far, for Darwin found, three hundred miles from 
shore, thousands of these little red sailors of the air, each 
on its own line, fill down upon his vessel. Various and 
curious have been the surmises as to the precise nature 
of their mysterious power to float in the air. As they 
are mostly observed on misty days, when a heavy dew 
falls, it has been thought that their filmy thread might 
get entangled in the rising dew, and by its brisk eva- 
poration be enabled to rise even with the additional weight 
of the spider. Others have discovered that the little crea- 
tures are quite familiar with the laws of electricity, and 
avail themselves of it for their airy voyages. Their 

Nature in Motion. 


threads are said to be negative electric, and consequently- 
repelled by the lower atmosphere, but attracted by the 
higher layers, which are positive. This remains to be 
proved, and in the meantime, we can but repeat : Hearken 
unto this; stand still and consider the wondrous works 
of God ! 

Among the well-known causes of such spontaneous and 
irregular migrations, none is so frequent and so all-powerfal, 
as hunger. Tlie wild ass of the steppes of Asia, of whom 
it was said that, "the wilderness and barren lands are his 
dwelling," leaves the deserts of Great Tartary, and feeds 
in summer to the north and east of Lake Aral ; in fall 
they migrate by the thousand to the north of India, and 
even to Persia. The hare of Siberia, and the rat of Nor- 
way, the reindeer, and the musk-ox, all leave at their 
season the Arctic regions, and travel, impelled by hunger, 
to southern latitudes. More regular are the lemmings, 
a kind of Lapland marmot. Scarcity of food, or over- 
population drives them once or twice every twenty-five 
years, in prodigious bands, from the Kolai and Lapland 
Alps, one species to the east, another to the west. A 
terrible scourge, they devastate field and garden, ruin the 
harvest, and hardly spare the contents of houses. Turning 
neither to the right nor the left, they march on in a 
direct, straight line, undeterred by mountain, river, or lake, 
passing boldly through village and town, until their ranks, 
thinned by numerous enemies, are lost in dense forests, 
or they reach the Western Ocean, and there end both 
their journey and their life. Other bands go through 
Sweden, and perish in the Gulf of Bothnia, so that but 


Leaves from the Book of Nature 

rarely, and often after an interval of long years, small 
armies re-unite again and turn their steps once more to- 
wards home. 

Of the lower animals, molluscs and infusoria travel 
probably in largest numbers ; their hosts are literally 
countless, and it is well known how they give a peculiar 
color to large tracts of the ocean. 

The most curious circumstance in the life of insects is 
their migration. They appear in large flights from un- 
known regions, in places where they have never been seen 
before, and continue their course, which nothing can check 
for a moment. They fly, they jump, they even crawl, for 
hosts of slow, clumsy caterpillars have been met with in 
the attempt to cross broad rivers. The more disgusting 
they are, the more persevering seem their labors to fill 
the earth. The bed-bug, that most hated, and yet most 
faithful companion of man in all parts of the globe, was 
not even known in Europe before the eleventh century, 
when it first appeared in Strasburg, and then, with the 
beds of exiled Huguenots, was carried to London. The 
far more useful silkworm, on the other hand, defies all 
our care and attention, and will not travel beyond the 
reach of his beloved friend and only food, the mulberry 
tree, whose leaf has to be destroyed by a vile caterpillar 
to be changed into bright, beautiful silk. A native of 
Asia, this worm also was used in China long before arjy 
other nation knew of its existence ; in the sixth century 
a monk brought the first eggs in his bosom to Constan- 
tinople, and the emperor, Justinian, at once spread the new 
branch of industry zealously through Greece. When king 

Nature in Motion. 


Roger of Sicily conquered that land, he carried the silk- 
worm home with him, as his most precious booty, and 
introduced it into Sicily. From thence it was, with equal 
care, carried further North, and finally also to this country. 

The bee loves the West so dearly, that it is not found 
beyond the Ural Mountains, and at the beginning of this 
century great pains had to be taken to carry it into Si- 
beria. Unknown to America, it had no sooner reached 
our shores, in 1675, than it spread, with amazing rapidity, 
all over the continent. "The fly of the English," soon 
became an abomination of the Indian, because their ap- 
pearance in the woods was to them a sure sign of the 
coming of the white man. Even now it leads the great 
movement towards the West : first is heard the busy hum- 
ming of the bee, then the squatter's weighty axe, and after 
him the German's strange jargon. 

Ants also have their well-known migrations, and aimless 
as they seem to be to human eye, blindly as the little 
insects seem to wander in the dust, still they go as little 
astray as the countless stars in heaven. The black ant 
of the East Indies, especially, becomes even useful to man. 
They travel in countless hordes; the fields are black as 
far as the eye can reach, and field and forest are left 
bare behind them. Boldly they enter human dwellings; 
they sweep over roof and garret, ' cellar and kitchen ; no 
corner, no crevice, ever so small, remains unexplored, and 
no rat or mouse, no cockroach or insect can be found 
after their instinct has moved these not unwelcome guests 
to continue their march. 

Very different are the migrations of the fearful locust, 

Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

that ancient symbol of mighty conquerors, laying bare 
country after country, as an overshadowing and dark cloud, 
pregnant with the wrath of heaven. Their home is in the 
far East, in places near the desert. There they deposit 
their eggs in the sand ; when hatched, by the heat of the 
sun, their young emerge, without wings, from the ground; 
but when mature, they rise on the first faint breeze that 
stirs, and fly, under the guidance of a leader, in masses 
so huge and so dense, that the air is darkened and the 
sound of their wings heard like the murmur of the distant 
ocean. In immense flights they travel from the East to 
the West, penetrating far into the interior of Africa, cross- 
ing, apparently without difficulty, the wide waters between 
Africa and Madagascar, and from Barbary to Italy. They 
have been seen in the heart of Germany, and a few have 
even been met with in Scotland. The land is as the gar- 
den of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate 
wilderness, for they destroy all vegetable life with unfailing 
certainty, and thus often cause famine, whilst the myriads 
of corpses which they leave behind, poison the air and 
not unfrequently produce disease and pestilence. Well did 
the Jews of old know this fierce plague, and well can we 
understand how the angel of the bottomless pit could ap- 
pear to the inspired seer in the form of a fearfully armed 

On the easiest routes and in the most favorable ele- 
ment for locomotion travel fishes, in incessant movement; 
even swift birds, in their rapid and unwearied flight, must 
yield the palm to them, the eagle to the shark, the swal 
low to the herring. Their form, also, is so particularly 

Nature in Motion. 


well adapted to swift and easy motion, that the unavoid- 
able resistance of the fluid in which they travel, never 
seems to impede their progress. While birds, when they 
undertake long flights, are often obliged to alight, and 
even try to rest on the yards of vessels, fishes never 
seem to be exhausted by fatigue and to require respite 
or repose. Sharks are known to have kept pace with 
fast-sailing ships during w^hole long voyages, and to have 
sported around them as in mockery. 

For known and for unknown purposes, in the tin}^ moun- 
tain brook, and in the wide ocean, fishes are seen in un- 
ceasing motion, darting in all directions, travelling now 
single, and now in shoals. Their regular journeys are 
mostly undertaken for the purpose of spawning; the deli- 
cate mackerel moves southward when its time comes, and 
the beautiful sardine of the Mediterranean goes, in spring, 
westward, and returns in autumn to the east. The stur- 
geon of northern Europe is seen singly to ascend the 
great rivers of the Continent, and the ormul, or migra- 
tory salmon of the polar seas, travels, we know not how, 
through river and lake, up into the Baikal, and there 
swims, in whimsical alternations, but always in immense 
crowds, first on the southern and then on the northern 
bank. The travels of the salmon are probably best known, 
because the fish was a favorite already in the days of 
Pliny, and yet, strange enough, is found in every sea in 
the Arctic, near the equator, and off New Holland, only 
not in the Mediterranean. They press in large, triangular 
masses up all the great northern rivers of Europe, Asia, 
and America. They enter Bohemia with Shakespeare, by 

68 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

sea, at least, sailing up the river Elbe ; they approach 
Switzerland in the green waters of the Rhine, and even 
the foot of the Cordilleras by a journey of three thousand 
miles up the Amazon ! Their crowds are- not unfrequently 
so dense that they actually stem, for awhile, the current 
of mighty rivers; still these bands are formed with great 
regularity. The strongest and largest females lead — a fact 
which will rejoice the strong-minded women of our age — 
followed by others of the same sex, travelling two and 
two at regular intervals; after them come the males in 
like order. With a noise like the distant roaring of a 
storm, they rush up the stream, now sporting in easy, 
graceful motion, and now darting ahead with lightning 
speed that the eye cannot follow. Do they come to some 
rock or wall that impedes their way, they leap with in- 
credible force, and repeat the effort until they have over- 
come the difficulty ; it is even said, that, at the foot of 
cataracts, they will take their tail in their mouth, and 
then, suddenly letting it go, like an elastic spring, rise 
twelve or fifteen feet in the air. Thus they travel on, 
undismayed and untired, until they have found a suitable 
place for depositmg their eggs, and with the same mar- 
vellous instinct return, year after year, to the distant, ocean. 

It is in their connection with the wants of men, how- 
ever, that these migrations of fishes become most impor- 
tant and interesting. It is well known that they furnish 
the sole food of some nations, and contribute in others a 
vast and cheap supply that covers the table of the poor 
man with plenty. Migrating fishes are thus one of the 
greatest and most invaluable gifts of the Creator, by which 

Nature in Motion. 


thousands support themselves and their families, and which, 
at certain times, form the exclusive food of whole races, 
as the sturgeon, upon which all Greek Christians subsist 
during their long and rigorous fasts. Hence, also, the im- 
portance of tlie herring, a snjall, insignificant fish, which 
yet gives food to millions, and employment to not less 
than three thousand decked vessels, not to speak of all 
the open boats employed in the same fishery. Where 
their home is, man does not know; it is only certain that 
they are not met with beyond a certain degree of northern 
latitude, and that the genuine herring never enters the 
Mediterranean, and hence remained unknown to the an- 
cients. In April and June, all of a sudden, innumerable 
masses appear in the northern seas, forming vast banks, 
often thirty miles long and ten miles wide. Their depth 
has never been satisfactorily ascertained, and their dense- 
ness may be judged by the fact, that lances and harpoons 
thrust in between them, sink not and move not, but re- 
main standing upright ! Divided into bands, herrings also 
move in a certain order. Long before their arrival al- 
ready their coming is noticed by the flocks of sea-birds 
that watch them from on high, whilst sharks are seen to 
sport around them, and a thick oily or slimy substance 
is spread over their columns, coloring the sea in day- 
time, and shining with a mild, mysterious light in a dark, 
still night. The sea-ape, the "monstrous chimera" of the 
learned, precedes them, and is, hence, by fishermen, called 
the king of the herrings. Then are first seen single males, 
often three or four days in advance of the great army; 
next follow the strongest and largest, and after them enor- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

mous shoals, countless like the sand on the sea-shore and 
the stars in heaven. They seek places that abound in 
stones and marine plants, where to spa'xra, and like other 
animals they frequent the localities, to which they have 
become accustomed, at a regular time, so that they may 
be expected as surely as the sun rises and sets. 

Other fishes have strange peculiarities connected with 
their travels. Thus, we are told that the mackerels spend 
their winter in, what would appear to others, a most un- 
comfortable position. In the Arctic as well as in the 
Mediterranean, as soon as winter comes, they deliberately 
plunge their head, and the anterior part of their body, into 
deep mud, keeping their tails erected, standing straight up. 
This position they do not change until spring, when they 
emerge, in incredible numbers, from their hiding-places, 
and go southward for the purpose of depositing their eggs 
in more genial waters. Still they are so firmly wedded 
to this element that they die the instant they are taken 
out of the water, and then shine with phosphorescent 

The eel is the strangest of travelling fishes ; he even 
performs journeys on land. In hot, dry summers, when 
ponds and pools are exhausted, he boldly leaves his 
home, and w^inding through thick grass, makes his way, 
by night, to the nearest water. He is a great gour- 
mand, moreover, and loves young tender peas so dearly 
that he will leave the river itself and climb up steep 
banks to satisfy his desire and, alas ! to fall into the 
snares of wicked men. Other fishes travel in large crowds 
all night long, and a perch in Tranquebar not only 

Nature in Motion. 


creeps on shore, but actually climbs up tall fan-palms, in 
pursuit of certain shell-fish, which form its favorite food. 
Covered with viscid slime, he glides smoothly over the 
rough bark ; spines, which he may sheathe and unfold at 
will, serve him like hands to hang by, and with the aid 
of side fins and a powerful tail he pushes himself upward, 
thus completing the strange picture of fish and shell-fish 
dwelling high on lofty trees. 

In remarkable contrast with this amazing mobility of 
fishes stands the comparative quiet of Amphibia, which, 
double-dealing creatures as they are, now claim the dry 
land as their home, and now the deep waters. The cun- 
ning lizard, the creeping snake, the venomous toad, or the 
voracious crocodile, in fine, all the disgusting animals of 
this class, whom man looks upon with awe or horror, are 
fortunately bound to the glebe on which they are born, 
and of them, as of reptiles, few, if any, love to travel. 
The violet crab of the West Indies and South America 
is almost the only one among them all that undertakes 
long journeys. They live on firm land only, far from the 
ocean, hid in dark caves or caverns of the mountains. 
But once in the year, in April or Jslay, the sun, the heat 
and love penetrate the thick armor of these cold-blooded 
beings. All of a sudden they burst forth, from cleft and 
crevice, and move in crowds of hundreds and thousands, 
so that the ground, the roads and woods are covered. with 
their uncouth shapes. The vast army travels in strict 
battle array ; first come strong men, then the females, in 
closely packed columns, fifty to sixty yards wide, and often 
half an hour long. They prefer moving at night, and the 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

loud rattling of their armor, which sounds like the falling 
of fierce hail, wakes old and young. During the day they 
rest at least twice, and hide from the hot sun ; with the 
cool of the evening they set out once more. Instinct 
shows them the shortest way to the ocean ; nothing ar- 
rests their march, and they never break their ranks. If 
rocks or walls impede their way, they scale them with 
untiring perseverance ; if a house blocks up their road, 
they coolly enter at the open window, frighten for a mo- 
ment the astonished inmates, but move peaceably out at 
the other side and pursue their march. If men try to 
arrest them, tli.ey rise with great indignation, stretch out 
their huge claw, and open and shut it with a loud noise. 
Only when they are violently frightened they show real 
alarm, and hurr}^, in wild, reckless flight, in all directions ; 
they recover, however, very soon, form again at a short 
distance, and march bravely onward. The injury they do 
arises much less from what they eat than from the de- 
struction of fields and gardens, in which they trample down 
and break with their claws everything that is in their 
w^ay. It is another strange provision of nature, that only 
few, the strongest, return to their mountain home ; by far 
the largest number are so lean and weak, that they cannot 
perform the long journey back, and serve to feed the 
hungry on the sterile beach of the Antilles. 

As the liquid wave sustains the rapid fish, so the still 
lighter air bears the swift bird on broad wings. The 
number of birds who always remain in the same region 
is extremely small ; by far the most avail themselves of 
their admirable means of locomotion to go to very great 

Nature in Motion. 


distances, in order to avoid the hardships of winter, and 
to exchange the snow-covered fields of the north for the 
sunny regions of lower latitudes. Some are perfect cos- 
mopolites. The raven is met with, not only throughout 
Europe, but croaks ^^nournfully on the shores of the Black 
and the Caspian Seas; he wings his sombre, heavy flight 
to distant India, and haunts the houses of Calcutta. He 
forces his way, with daring impudence, over the guarded 
shores x)£ Japan, dwells a free citizen in the United States, 
looks with equal gravity into Mount Etna and ice-covered 
Hecla, and braves the rigor of the Arctic regions as far 
as Melville Island. 

Generally, however, birds have a home, from which they 
only migrate at stated times, to find a supply of food 
and a temperature well suited to reproduction. Their ad- 
mirable powers of motion enable them to circulate, for 
these purposes, more widely and more freely all over the 
earth than any other class of animals. In this they are 
led by the same instincts from the Almighty, that direct 
alike the life-withering flights of the locust, and the cheerful 
migrations of the swallow. They are never deceived in 
their time by any peculiarity of wind and weather; for 
truly, "the stork in the heavens knoweth her appointed 
time, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, ob- 
serve the time of their coming." It even seems as if 
certain impulses were given to birds, independent of their 
early imitative propensities, which must proceed directly 
from the Almighty power that governs the universe. How 
else could the instinct of migration be felt by birds kept 
in cages, whom neither cold nor want of food could in- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

fluencel And yet birds, who were raised from the egg, 
who never saw the flight of their brethren, never heard 
the voice of their companions, will, at the appointed time, 
become restless, show an insurmountable uneasiness, and 
when let loose, dart off, as if guided by the compass, to 
join their unknown friends on their journey. Little, deli- 
cate beings, these feeble birds of passage, supported by 
the hand of Him before whom not one of the sparrows 
OM the house-top is forgotten, bear up against storms of 
snow and rain, and make their way through such vast 
turbulence as would apparently embarrass and retard the 
most hardy and resolute of the winged nation. Yet they 
keep their appointed time and season, and in spite of frost 
and winds, return to their station .on earth, to gladden 
and cheer the hearts of men. Besides these birds that 
visit the temperate zone during the more genial parts of 
the year and add so greatly to the beauty and music of 
our groves, in spring and summer, there are others, and 
those a numerous tribe, that wing their way to the samxe 
regions w'hen the reign of w^inter has commenced. When 
the Arctic seas, and lakes and rivers present an unbroken 
field of impenetrable ice, various waterfowl, swans, geese, 
and ducks, and an infinite number of others seek a warmer 
climate to the south. In their travels each variety of 
birds has not only its own appointed time, but also its 
own peculiar way of arranging their vast armies. Some 
fly singly, and some in groups, others migrate in thous- 
ands. Most travel by day ; a few only at night, so that 
they have been found dead in light-houses, having flown 
against the dazzling light. Wild geese fly in long lines, 

Nature in Motion. 


swans in the shape of a wedge, and swallows in broad 
ranks; starlings roll on in large crowds, constantly whirl- 
ing around an axis in the centre of their body, and all 

" ranged in figure, wedge their way and set forth 

Their airy caravan, high over seas 
Flying, and over lands with mutual wing 
Easing their flight." 

Even feeble, ill-winged birds follow the all-powerful im- 
pulse, and traverse vast seas and continents as best they 
can. The Virginia partridge, when going north, is so heavy 
on the wing, that many fall into the rivers and end their 
journey by swimming. But of all birds the quail pro- 
ceeds, probably, in the most peculiar manner. When they 
wish to leave Europe for Africa, they wait patiently for 
a strong northwestern wind; as soon as this sets in they 
start, and flapping one wing, while they present the other 
to the gale, half oar half sail, they graze the billows of 
the Mediterranean with their fat, heavy rumps, and bury 
themselves in the sands of Africa, that they may serve 
as food to the famished inhabitants of Zara. On other 
journeys, when they have to pass over land, they make 
their way running and hopping, until they reach the shore. 
Tired and exhausted, the weary rest on the rigging of 
ships, or make regular stations in the Mediterranean, on 
Malta and the Lipari islands ; in the northern seas, on 
Heligoland and Norderney, so that the inhabitants of these 
places depend upon a large harvest of quails, like the 
Jews of old, as a condition of their existence. In Heligo- 
land there prevailed, we are told, the quaint usage, that 
the preacher in his pulpit, when he saw from his elevated 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

station, a flock of quails approach, immediately broke off 
his sermon with the words : Amen ! my dear brethren, the 
quails are coming ! 

Famous are also the flights of storks, who have their 
summer-houses high up in the north of Europe, on the 
roof of the poor peasants' huts, and live during winter, 
in stately pride, on pyramid and mosque. Cranes, like- 
wise, and herons, travel in fall to the warmer south ; 
when they take wing, their clang is heard from afar, and 
they rise so high up in the air, that the eye cannot reach 
them, and we only hear their rough voices, for they do 
not fly in silence, as most other birds, but utter constant 
cries, especially when travelling at night, to keep the scat- 
tering flock together. 

Among the most remarkable migrations of birds are 
those of the North American pigeon, the very "herrings 
of the air," as they have, most unpoetically, been called. 
Like them, however, they appear in astounding numbers, 
nobody knows whence, and are found alike all over this 
continent, from Hudson's Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and 
from the Atlantic to the Pacific. About broodtime, they 
unite in millions to seek a comfortable home. Their num- 
bers are far beyond all computation ; they darken the 
heavens with their vast armies, and break down the forests 
on which they settle. Not less strange is the inexplicable 
faculty which other pigeons possess, to find the way to 
their home. Birds have been taken, that had never been 
further from the place of their birth than a few miles; 
they w^ere carried by rail to the distance of more than 
a thousand miles, and then let loose. They were seen 

Nature in Motio.v. 


to fly around a few times in large circles, and then, m a 
straight line, with marvellous swiftness, directly to their 
home ! They cannot see it, for the roundness of the globe 
would prevent that; no other sense can possibly come to 
their aid, and yet they never fail to reach the place from 
which they were taken ! 

Thus birds travel from land to land all over the earth; 
some sailing high in the air, passing without astonishment 
over populous cities, disdaining fertile valleys and plains 
covered with rich grain, bent with fixed purpose upon the 
way to their last year's home ; others, like the swallow, 
gladdening both Europe and Africa, and, at the appointed 
time, leaving their nest to seek a warmer climate, as the 
soul is anxious to leave this earthly home to seek a 
better world above. The tender nightingale travels, both 
sexes together, from north to south ; but in early spring 
the females leave several weeks earlier, and wing their 
way from Egypt and Syria, alone, to northern regions. 
Of finches, the females only migrate, the males remain 
behind, and being thus widowers during the long winter, 
have, from the French, I'cceived the name of celibataires. 
Not inaptly has, therefore, the question been asked, whether 
the females of birds are not, perhaps, more sensitive to 
the magnetic current that whirls around our globe, than 
the males'? 

The Mammalia do not roam and rove so much as the 
lighter birds and favored fishes; they are generally bound 
to certain localities, and at all events chained to the soil. 
Still we find among them also travellers, now driven forth 
by hunger, and now by an overwhelming number of beasts 

78 Leaves from the Book of Nature, 

of prey, to seek new pastures and new dwelling-places. 
Others, again, follow man in his migrations over the globe, 
and thus spread from country to country. To the former, 
belong the horses which now roam wild on the plains of 
South America, and travel, at times, thousands of miles. 
The wild asses, also, in the wilderness, " which stand up 
in the high places and snuff the wind like dragons," travel 
in bands of two or three hundred, and leave, in winter, 
the tropics for a still warmer region in the south of 
Africa. They are called "the Bushman's harvest," for the 
wild Bushman hunts and consumes what has been left by 
the royal lion and the hungry vulture, who follow them 
in their march and feast upon them for a season. Ga- 
zelles and antelopes migrate in like manner, and even 
huge elephants are seen wandering in large herds over 
the boundless plains of Africa. The shaggy buffalo roams 
in vast numbers over the prairies of our own continent, 
and migrates at regular intervals from the north to the 
south, and from the plain to the mountain. Salt springs 
are with them the great centre of attraction, but gen- 
erally their movements seem to be regulated by the state 
of their pastures. As soon as the fire has spread over 
a prairie, and is succeeded by a fine growth of tender 
grass, immense herds are sure to appear. How they dis- 
cover that their table is spread, we know not ; it has 
been surmised that stragglers from the main body, who 
have wandered away when food became scarce, may first 
notice the new growth, and by some mysterious means, 
communicate the good news to their hungry brethren. 
Monkeys, also, wander from land to land, when driven 

Nature in Motion. 


by hunger or fierce enemies; they have even been sus- 
pected of passhig through a tunnel under the straits of 
Gibraltar, from Africa to Europe. Their mode of crossing 
rivers is a beautiful evidence of their ingenuity and in- 
stinct. A powerful male seizes a branch that projects 
over the banks of the stream, and suspends himself by 
his prehensile tail ; another takes hold of him, and so on 
until they have a row as long as the river is wide. Then 
they begin to swing the living chain, and continue until 
the impetus is powerful enough to enable the last one 
to take hold of a tree on the opposite shore. Over this 
strange bridge the whole host passes safely ; as soon as 
they are across, the first monkey lets go his hold, the 
chain swings again, and so they all safely get over large 

The so-called domestic animals travel exclusively by the 
agency of man, and in his company. It is thus that the 
horse, a native of the wide steppes of Central Asia, which 
was not known on this continent before the arrival of the 
Spaniards, now roams over it in vast herds from Hud- 
son's Bay to Cape Horn, To man we owe it, that the 
goat climbs our Rocky Mountains, and white, woolly sheep 
graze on scanty hill-sides, whilst the heavier, slower cattle 
fatten on rich low grounds, and remind us, in the far 
backwoods, by the sweet harmonies of their bells, of the 
neighborhood of men. But here, also, the weeds have come 
with the good plants. Thus the domestic (!) rat, a native 
of the Old World, was carried in ships to the Cape, to 
Mauritius and Bourbon, to the Antilles and Bermuda. An 
Antwerp ship brought them, 1544, first, to this continent, 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

where they astonished the good Peruvians so much, that 
they obtained with them the name of "things that came 
out of the sea." Now they are rarer in Europe tlian 
m America. 

The importance of the useful domestic animals cannot 
be overrated. The very existence of man is bound up 
with the horse, the ox, and the sheep. Brazil lives al- 
most exclusively by means of her horses and her cattle; 
and Australia has developed her resources and progressed 
in civilization only since sheep have been introduced. It 
is strange, surely, that like the best gifts in the vegetable 
world, the cerealia, so these domestic animals, also, are 
♦ presents which the east has sent to the v/est, and for which 
no return has yet been made. Here, also, an invisible 
but insurmountable barrier seems to prevent such an ex- 

What shall we lastly say of the wanderings of man? 
His history is still darker than that of his servants, and 
his first home, our Eden, is truly defended, even now, by 
an angel with a flaming sword. The place where his 
cradle stood is utterly unknown. The first period of his 
life is veiled in dark night ; only a few brief flashes of 
light are, by revelation, thrown upon it, which show us 
but a single moment in a long period, and consequently, 
barely allow us to guess at the connection, without giving 
us anything like continuous information. 

It is not a little singular that one of the strongest ar- 
guments in support of the favorite idea of man's first 
home, and the unity of his race, is derived from the an- 
alogy between him and plants and animals. As the latter 

Nature in Motion. 


invariably accompany man, and as they all come from 
the table lands of Central Asia, so, it is said, man also 
came probably from that portion of our globe, though, 
without doubt, at a time when the now dry and sterile 
heights were still the luxuriant, tropical valley of Eden. 
For geologists tell us we may with good reason presume 
that these rich low grounds were, by some mysterious 
convulsion, raised slowly and steadily, and thus the races 
of men scattered abroad into the adjoining fertile valleys. 

When this happened we know not. It must have been 
far beyond the reach of history, legend, or vague tradi- 
tion. Even the oldest races of the earth, whose myths, 
fables, or songs, whose features or language, point to the 
distant East with greatest certainty, even these found their 
land already in possession of others. 

Thus the Celts, among the oldest nations of Europe, 
when they arrived from their far eastern cradle, encoun- 
tered in Europe already nations whose imperfect language, 
lawless manners, and superstitious faith, showed how long 
they had been separated from their early home, and from 
their former intimate communion with the Creator. Nay, 
these Celts themselves, coming as they did on one of the 
very first waves of immigration from Asia, were already 
comparative barbarians, having lost both the culture and 
the faith of our first fathers. If, then, so little is posi- 
tively known of the condition of the West of Europe and 
the ancestors of the present masters of the globe, much 
less can be gathered as to the state of things in East 
itself. Still, wherever legends speak, dimly though it be, 
wherever traditions begin .^to shed a faint and often de- 


Leaves fuom the Book of Nature. 

coitful light upon the first condition of powerful nations — 
everywhere immense hordes of emigrants are seen to 
p>our forth, age after age, from the same common centre 
in middle Asia. Chinese myths speak of an immigra- 
tion from the West, about two thousand years before 
Christ, and the "Vendidad" of the Zendavesta says that 
the e<irly Persians came under Schemschid from Eastern 
table-lands down into the "four-cornered" land, their pre- 
sent home. 

By far more positive and certain are the traditions of 
the three greatest races on earth, both on account of the 
antiquity, and comparative authenticity of their legends, 
and on account of the intrinsic evidence drawn from the 
mutual relationship in which they stand to each other. 

The Hindoos, whom we venerate as the oldest of known 
civilized nations, derive their origin from the Northwest, 
and call Hindukush" and " Belustag" in their traditions 
invariably the boundary mountains — behind which their 
birth-place is hidden. 

The Shemitic nations also point to the East as their 
common home, and to the Ararat as the landmark which 
divides their first dwelling place from their present resi- 

Now, exactly between the Ararat and the Belustag, lies 
that vast table-land, which most men are disposed to con- 
sider the birth-place of the first among men. Both Indian 
and Shemitic races brought with them to their new 
dwelling places, not only an indistinct recollection of their 
former home, but many rich treasures of their former 
civilization, in one word, a history of their people. These 

Nature in Motion. 


elements they rapidly developed to a high degree of power 
and culture, but the latter withered and disappeared as 
rapidly again, for it was not grown on its native soil, not 
favored by the sun of their true home. Hence they either 
ceased to have a real history as the Chinese and the In- 
dians, or they became rude barbarians, as the Shemitic 

Different, however, was the destiny of the third great 
fiimily of men, the Indo-Germans, who probably left, last 
of all children, the paternal house of the East. In mil- 
lions they poured wave after wave of migrating nations 
into Europe, the last of which, fortunately, belongs already 
to historical times, and under the well-known name of the 
great Migration of Nations, changed completely the whole 
ethnography of Europe. Still, among all the numerous 
Indo- German nations, there lives not a single legend con- 
nected with the time of their existence in Asia. They 
seem to have broken with the past for ever, to have ut- 
terly abandoned their early home, and perhaps even the 
civilization which they left behind them. They have de- 
voted themselves, instead, to that grand future, which alone 
seems to embody, and to realize the great destiny of man- 

The only great riddle in the history of the migrations 
of men, to which neither revelation nor science has as yet 
offered the key, is the origin of the natives of this con- 
tinent. Surmises abound, from the most absurd to the 
most plausible. The poor redskins have been, at will, 
transformed into exiled Jews or banished Chinese ; their 
language has been called Syriac, Welsh, and Celtic. Their 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

traditions speak simply and vaguely first of a rude, original 
race which lived in the fertile plains of the West, and of 
a more powerfnl and more civilized race which, at a later 
period, came from the North, moved victoriously south- 
ward, and subjugated the early owners of the soil. The 
difference of the two contending races is confirmed by the 
study of their skulls. But we know not whence the native 
settlers came, nor whence the foreign invaders. Jt is con- 
jectured, and with good reason, that as this continent is 
geologically older than that of Europe, so its occupation, 
also, dates from times previous to the Christian history 
of the Old World. In those days, however, the nations 
of Asia are invariably represented as leading a pastoral 
life, and as having, consequently, long domesticated the 
ox and the sheep. It i.^, then, in the highest degree im- 
probable that emigrants of those times, should have left 
these incalculable blessings behind them, if, as many be- 
lieve, they went from Asia by a northwest passage across 
the Atlantic to America. Yet, no trace of domestic ani- 
mals was found here. As improbable, however, is it that, 
if by accident they should have been compelled to leave 
them behind, they should not at once have set to work, 
in continuance of ancient custom, to tame the buffalo, the 
vicuna, and the alpaca, as the Europeans did when they 
arrived on this continent. 

Setting this only great riddle aside, and resuming all 
that myths, traditions, and revelation itself, tell us, so 
much only seems to be certain, that all migrations of men, 
like those of plants and animals, have gone from the 
rising to tne setting sun. Everywhere history begins with 

Nature in Motion. 


an immigration of eastern races. In southern Europe ap- 
peared the seafaring Pelasgi ; they were soon followed by 
the Etruscans; then came the Helleni. From the table- 
lands of the Waldai we see next the Istuni or Fins driven 
westward by the pressure of countless Teutons. The lat- 
ter, together with Slaves, soon rush into Scandinavia, Ger- 
many, and France. The same phenomenon, in fact, is 
constantly repeated. New waves of new nations roll on 
from the East, and shake the foundations of older, well 
organized kingdoms, until Columbus opens the western gate 
to let loose the rising stream of Asiatic races, which now 
flood the new continent. 

This resistless movement toward the West is yet un- 
broken, unrelenting. The same great law of nature impels 
man towards the setting sun, and all his efforts to travel 
eastward have been ingloriously foiled. In vain did mil- 
lions of brave, pious men rush to the Orient to reconquer 
the Holy Land ; in vain were the most chivalrous courage, 
the most devoted self-sacrifice, employed against the stern 
eternal rule of nature. No great expedition to the East 
has ever been successful and permanent. Vast distances 
have been traversed, vast reverses sustained, and hardships 
incredible endured — only to result in grand defeats, like 
the Anabasis of the younger Cyrus, and the retreat of 
the noble ten thousand. And so it is, still, in our day. 
As recently as the latter part of the last century, a whole 
Tartar nation, several hundred thousands of Kalmucks, 
with all their herds, left southern Russia, and fled across 
the boundless steppes of Asia, to escape the iron rule of 
the Russian sceptre. They left unimpeded ; they were 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

allowed to defy their master's vengeance — but they could 
not disobey the great law of nature. A few beggars re- 
turned, long years after, to report that the whole tribe 
had perished, a whole nation had disappeared from the 
globe! And the same law called to Xapoleon, when he 
was at the height of his power, sternly uttering the Scrip- 
ture words : Hitherto shalt thou oome but no further ! 

The Ocean and its Life. 



C|e §umx miii its %xk, 

"How sweet .... 
With half-dropt eyelids still, 
Beneath a heaven dark and holy, 
To watch the long, bright river draw in slowly 
His waters from the purple hill- 
To hear the emerald-colored water falling 
Thro' many a woven acanthus-wreath divine! 
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine, 
Only to hear were sweet." — TE5rNTS0>\ 

JTIGH on the terrible cliff that overhangs the Scylla of 
the ancients stood King Frederick of Sicily ; and by 
his side the fairest of Europe's fair daughters. Often and 
often had he gazed down into the fierce seething cauldron 
beneath him, and in vain had he offered the gold of his 
treasure and the honors of his court to him who would dive 
into the whirlpool and tell him of the fearful mysteries that 
were hid beneath the hissing, boiling foam. But neither 
fisherman nor proud knight had dared to tempt the God 
of mercy, and to venture down into the dread abyss, which 
threatened death, sure, inevitable death, to the bold in- 

Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

truder. But better than gold and honor, is fair maiden's 
love. And when the king's beautiful daughter smiled upon 
the gazing crowd around her, and when her sweet lips 
uttered words of gentle entreaty, the spell was woven, 
and the bold heart found that would do her bidding, for- 
getful of worldly reward, and alas ! unmindful, also, of the 
word of the Almighty ! 

He was a bold seaman, and his companions called him 
Pesce-Colo, Nick the Fish, for he lived in the ocean's 
depths, and days and nights passed, which he spent swim- 
ming and diving in the warm waters of Sicily. And from 
the very clift' on which the king had spoken his taunting 
words, from the very feet of his fair tempting child, he 
threw himself down into the rasfincr flood. The waters 
closed over him, hissing and seething in restless madness, 
and deeper and darker grew the fierce whirlpool. All 
eyes were bent upon the gaping gulf, all lips were silent 
as the grave. Time seemed to be at rest ; the very 
hearts ceased to beat. But lo ! out of the dark waves 
there arises a snow-white form, and a glowing arm is seen, 
and black curls hanging down on the nervous neck of 
the daring seaman. And, as he breathes once more the 
pure air of heaven, and as his eyes behold once more 
the blue vault above him, he stammers words of thanks 
to his Maker ; and a shout arose from cliff to cliff, that 
".he welkin rang, and the ocean's roar was hushed. 

But when their eyes turned again to greet the bold 
man who had dared what God had forbidden, and man 
had never ventured to do, the dark waters had closed 
upon him. They saw the fierce flood rush up in wild 

The Ocean and its Life. 


haste ; they saw the white foam sink down into the dark, 
gloomy gulf ; they heard the thundering roar and the hid- 
eous hissing below ; the waters rose and the waters fell, 
but the bold, daring seaman was never seen again. 

Legend recites the fearful tale, and the poet repeats it 
in melodious strains. But it is neither fable nor fiction. 
The same dread mystery broods yet over the waters, and 
little is even now known of the great deep, where the 
hungry ocean dem.ands still its countless victims. For the 
calm of the sea is a treacherous rest, and under the de- 
ceitful mirror-like smoothness reign eternal warfare and 
strife. Ocean us holds not, as of old, the Earth, his spouse, 
in quiet, loving embrace; our sea-god is a god of battles, 
and wrestles and wrangles in never-ceasing struggle with 
the firm continent. Even when apparently calm and slum- 
bering, he is moving in restless action, for "there is sorrow 
on the sea, it cannot be quiet." Listen, and you will hear 
the gentle beating of playful waves against the snowy 
sands of the beach ; look again, and you will see the 
gigantic mass breathe and heave like a living being. No 
quiet, no sleep, is allowed to the great element. As the 
little brook dances merrily over rock and root, never rest- 
ing day and night, so the great ocean, also, knows no 
leisure, no repose. 

It is not merely, however, that the weight of the agi- 
tated atmosphere presses upon the surface of the vast 
ocean, and moves it now with the gentle breath of the 
zephyr, and now with the fierce power of the tempest. 
Even when the waters seem lashed into madness by the 
raging tornado, or rise in daring rebellion under the sud- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

den, sullen fury of the typhoon, it is but child's play 
compared with the gigantic and yet silent, lawful move- 
ment, in which they ascend to the very heavens on high, 
where " He bindeth up the waters in His thick clouds," 
and then again sink uncomplaining to the lowest depths 
of the earth. 

As the bright sun rests warm and glowing on the 
bosom of the cool flood, millions of briny drops abandon 
the mighty ocean and rise, unseen by human eye, borne 
on the wings of the wind, up into the blue ether. But 
soon they are recalled to their allegiance. They gather 
into silvery clouds, race around the globe, and sink down 
again, now impetuously in a furious storm, bringing de- 
struction and ruin, now as gentle rain, fertilizing and 
refreshing, or more quietly yet, as brilliant dew pearls, 
glittering in the bosom of the unfolding rose, and filling 
each tiny cup held up by leaf and blossom. Eagerly the 
thirsty earth drinks in the heavenly gift ; in a thousand 
veins she sends it down to her lowest depths, and fills 
her vast invisible reservoirs. Soon she can hold the rich 
abundance of health-bringing waters no longer, and through 
cleft and cliff they gush joyfully forth as merry, chatter- 
ing springs. They join rill to rill, and rush heedlessly 
down the mountains in brook and creek, until they grow 
to mighty rivers. Thundering over gigantic rocks, they 
leap fearlessly down lofty precipices, or gently rolling their 
mighty masses along the inclined planes of lowlands, be- 
come man's obedient slaves, and carry richly laden vessels 
on their broad shoulders, until they return once more to 
the bosom of their common mother, the great ocean. 

The Ocjkan and its Life. 


IIow quietly, how silently nature works in her great 
household ! Unheard and unseen, these enormous masses 
of water rise up from the broad seas of the earth, and 
yet it requires not less than one-third of the whole warmth 
which the sun grants to our globe, to lift them up from 
the ocean to the region of clouds. Raised thus by forces 
far beyond our boldest speculations, and thence returning 
as blessed rain, as humble mill-race, or as active, rapid 
high-road, carrying huge loads from land to land, the ocean 
receives back again its own, and thus completes one of its 
great movements in the eternal circle through water, air, 
and land. 

But the mighty ocean rests not even in its own legi- 
timate limits. When not driven about as spra}^, as mist, 
as rain, when gently reposing in its eternal home on the 
bosom of the great earth, it is still subject to powerful in- 
fluences from abroad. That mysterious force which chains 
sun to sun, and planet to planet, which calls back the 
wandering comet to its central sun, and binds the worlds 
in one great universe, the force of general attraction, must 
needs have its effect upon the waters also, and under the 
control of sun and moon, they perform a second race 
around the globe on which we live. 

When the companions of Nearchus, under Alexander 
the Great, reached the mouth of the Indus, nothing excited 
their amazement in that wonderful country so much as 
the regular rise and fall of all the ocean — a phenomenon 
which they had never seen at home, on the coasts of Asia 
Minor and Greece. Even their short stay there sufficed, 
however, to show them the connection of this astonishing 

92 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

change with the phases of the moon. For "sweet as 
the moonlight sleeps upon this bank," it is nevertheless 
full of silent power. Stronger even than the larger sun, 
because so much nearer to the earth, it raises upon the 
boundless plains of the Pacific a wave only a few feet 
high, but extending down to the bottom of the sea, and 
moves it onwards, chained as it were to its own path 
high in heaven. Harmless and powerless this wave rolls 
along the placid surface of the ocean. But lands arise, 
New Holland on one side, southern Asia on the other, 
and the low but immensely broad tidal wave is pressed 
together and rises upwards, racing rapidly round the sharp 
point of Africa. Quickly it reaches Fez and Morocco; 
a few hours later it passes through the Straits of Gibral- 
tar, and along the coast of Portugal. From thence it 
rushes, with increased force, into the Channel and past the 
western coast of England. There the rocky cliffs of Ire- 
land, and the numerous islands of the northern seas, 
arrest its rapid course, so that it reaches Norway only 
after an eight hours' headlong race. Another branch of 
the same wave hurries along the eastern coast of America, 
in almost furious haste, often amounting to one hundred 
and twenty miles an hour ; from thence it passes on to 
the north, where, hemmed in on all sides, it rises here 
and there to the enormous height of eighty feet. Such 
is not rarely the case in the Bay of Fundy — a circum- 
stance which shows us forcibly the vast superiority of 
this silent, steady movement over that of the fiercest tem- 
pest. For even at that most stormy and most dreaded 
spot on earth. Cape Horn, all the violence of raging tem- 

The Ocean and its Life. 


pests cannot raise the waves higher than some thirty feet, 
nor does it ever disturb the habitual calm of the ocean 
below the depth of a few fathoms, so that divers do not 
hesitate to stay below, even when the hurricane rages 
above. Gentle in its appearance, though grand in its effect, 
this mighty wave shows its true power only when it meets 
obstacles worthy of such effort. Where strong currents 
oppose its approach, as in the river Dordogne, in France, 
it races in contemptuous haste up the daring stream, and 
reaches there, for instance, in two minutes, the height of 
lofty houses. Or it rolls the mighty waters of the Amazon 
river into huge dark masses of foaming cascades* and then 
drives them steadily, resistlessly upwards, leaving the calm, 
of a mirror behind, and sending its roar and its thunder 
for miles into the upland. 

Still less known and less observed is the third great 
mxOvement which interrupts the apparent calm and peace 
of the ocean. For here, as everywhere, movement is 
life, as rest would be death. Without this ever-stirring 
activity in its own bosom, without this constant moving 
and intermingling of its waters, the countless myriads of 
decaying plants and animals which are daily buried in the 
vast deep, would soon destroy, by their mephitic vapors, 
all life upon earth. This greatest of all movements, never 
resting, never ending, is the effect of the sun and the heat 
it ges crates. Like all bodies, water also contracts, and 
consequently grows heavier as the temperature sinks; but 
only to a certain point, about three degrees Reaumur. 
This is the invariable warmth of the ocean at a depth 
of three thousand six hundred feet, and below that. If 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the temjDerature is cooler, water becomes thinner again 
and lighter, so that at the freezing point, as ice, it weighs 
considerably less than when fluid. The consequence of 
this peculiar relation of water to heat produces the re- 
markable result, that in the great ocean an incessant move- 
ment continues : up to the above mentioned degree of heat, 
th^ warmer and lighter water rises continually, whilst the 
cooler and heavier sinks in like manner; below that point 
the colder water rises and the warmer part descends to 
the bottom. Hence, the many currents in the vast mass 
of the ocean ; sometimes icy cold, at other times warm, 
and even hot, so that often the difference between the 
temperature of the current and that of the quiet water 
by its side, is truly astonishing. The great Humboldt 
found at Truxillo the undisturbed waters as warm as 
twenty-two degrees, whilst the stream on the Peruvian 
coast had but little more than eight degrees, and the sailor 
who paddles his boat with tolerable accuracy on the outer 
line of the gulf-stream, may dip hi^ left into cold and 
his right into warm water. 

Greater w^onders still are hidden under the calm, still 
surface of the slumbering giant. Thoughtless and careless, 
man passes in his light fragile boat, over the boundless 
expanse of the ocean, and little does he know, as yet, 
of the vast plains beneath him, the luxuriant forests, the 
sweet, green meadows, that lie stretched out at the foot 
of unmeasured mountains, which raise their lofty peaks 
up to his ship's bottom, and of the fiery volcanoes that 
earthquakes have thrown up below the waves. 

For the sea, also, has its hills and its dales ; its table- 

The Ocean and its Life. 


lands and its valleys, sometimes barren, and sometimes 
covered with luxuriant vegetation. Beneath its placid, even 
surface, there are inequalities fur greater than the most 
startliiw heic^hts on the continents of the earth. In the 
Atlantic, south of St. Helena, the lead of the French frigate 
Venus, reached bottom only at a depth of 14,550 feet, 
or a distance equal to the height of Mount Blanc ; and 
Captain Ross, during his last expedition to the South Pole, 
found no bottom yet at 27,600 feet, a depth equal to 
more than five miles, so that there the Dawalaghiri might 
have been placed on top of Mount Sinai, without appear- 
ing above the waters ! And yet, from the same depth, 
mountains rise in cliffs and reefs, or expand upwards in 
broad, fertile islands. 

Nor can we any longer sustain the ancient faith in the 
stability of the " terra jirma^'' as contrasted with the ever- 
changing nature of the sea. Recent discoveries have 
proved, on the contrary, that the land changes, and the 
waters are stable ! The ocean maintains always the same 
level ; but, as on the great continents, table-lands rise and 
prairies sink, so does the bottom of the sea rise and fall. 
In the South Sea this takes place alternately, at stated 
times. To such sinking portions of our earth belongs, 
among others, New Holland. So far from being a new, 
young land, it is, on the contrary, with its strange flora, 
so unlike that of the rest of the world, and its odd and 
marvellous animals, an aged, dying island, which the ocean 
is slowly burying, inch by inch. 

And a wondrous world, is the world of the great sea. 
There are deep abysses, filled with huge rocks, spectral 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

ruins of large ships, and the corpses of men. There lie, 
half covered with lime and slime, the green, decaying gun, 
and the precious box, filled with the gold of Peru's snow- 
covered Alps, by the side of countless skeletons, gathered 
fi'om every race and every clime. There moulders the 
bald skull of the brave sea captain, by the side of the 
broken armor of gigantic turtles; the w^haler's harpoon 
rests peaceably near the tooth of the whale ; thousands 
of fishes dwell in huge bales of costly silks from India, 
and over them pass, in silent crowds, myriads of dimin- 
utive infusoria; enormous whales, and voracious sharks, 
chase before them thickly packed shoals of frightened 
herrings. Here, the sea foams and frets restlessly up 
curiously-shaped cliffs, and oddly-formed rocks ; there, it 
moves sluggishly over large plains of white, shining sand. 
In the morning, the tidal weaves break in grim fury against 
the bald peaks of submarine Alps, or pass, in hissing 
streams, through ancient forests on their side ; in the even- 
ing, they glide noiselessly over bottomless abysses, as if 
afraid, lest they, also, might sink dow^n into the eternal 
night below, from which rises distant thunder, and the 
locked up waters roar and rage like evil spirits chained 
in the vast deep. 

The ocean is a vast charnel house. There are millions 
and millions of animals mouldering, piled up, layer upon 
layer, in huge masses, or forming mile-long banks. For 
no peace is found below, and under the thin, transparent 
veil, there reigns endless murder, wild warfare, and fierce 
bloodshed. Infinite, unquenchable hatred seems to dwell 
in the cold, unfeeling deep. Destruction alone maintains 

The Ocean and its Life. 


life in the boundless world of the ocean. Lions, tigers, 
and wolves, reach a gigantic size in its vast caverns, and, 
day after day, destroy whole generations of smaller ani- 
mals. Polypi and mcdusoc, in countless numbers, spread 
their nets, catching the thoughtless radiati by tens of 
thousands, and the huge whale swallows, at one gulp, 
millions of minute, but living creatures. The swordfish 
and the sea-lion hunt the elephant and the rhinoceros of 
the Pacific, and tiny parasites dart upon the tunny fish, 
to dwell in myriads in his thick layers of fat. All are 
hunting, killing, murdering ; but the strife is silent, no 
war-cry is heard, no burst of anguish disturbs the eternal 
silence, no shouts of triumph rise up through the crystal 
waves to the w^orld of light. The battles are fought in 
deep, still secresy ; only now and then the parting waves 
disclose the bloody scene for an instant, or the dying 
whale throws his enormous carcass high into the air, 
driving the water up in lofty columns, capped with foam, 
and tinged with blood. 

Ceaseless as that warfare is, it does not leave the ocean's 
depths a w^aste, a sceii.'^ of desolation. On the contrary, 
we find that the sea, the most varied and the most won- 
derful part of creation, where nature still keeps some of 
her profoundest secrets, is teeming with life. " Things in- 
numerable, both great and small, are there." It contains, 
especially, a most diversified and exuberant abundance of 
animal life, from the microscopic infusoria, in inconceivable 
numbers, up to those colossal forms which, free from the 
incumbrance of weight, are left free to exert the whole 
of their giant power for their enjoyment. Where the 


Leaves from the Book qf Nature. 

rocky cliffs of Spitzbergen and the inhospitable shores of 
Victoria land refuse to nourish even the simplest, hum- 
blest lichen, where no reindeer is ever seen, and even the 
polar bear finds no longer a home, there the sea is still 
covered with fuci and confer v£e, and myriads of minute 
animals crowd its life-sustaining waves. Naturally, the 
purest spring-water is not more limpid than the water of 
the ocean ; for it absorbs all colors save that of ultra- 
marine, which gives it the azure hue vying with the blue 
of heaven. It varies to be sure, with every gleam of sun- 
shine, with every passing cloud, and when shallow, it re- 
flects the color of its bed. But its brightest tints, and 
strangest colors, are derived from infusoria and plants. In 
the Arctic Sea, a broad band of opaque olive green passes 
right through the pure ultramarine; and off the Arabian 
coast, we are told, there is a strip of green water so dis- 
tinctly marked, that a ship has been seen in blue and 
green water at the same time. The Vermillion Sea of 
California, has its name from the red color of vast quan- 
tities of infusoria, and the Red Sea of Arabia changes 
from delicate pink to deep scarlet, as its tiny inhabitants 
move in thicker or thinner layers. Other masses of mi- 
nute creatures tinge the waters round the Maldives, black, 
and that of the Gulf of Guinea, white. 

When Captain Ross, in the Arctic Sea, explored the 
bottom of the sea, and dropped his lead to a depth of 
six thousand feet, he still brought up living animalcula; 
and even at a depth exceeding the height of our U)ftiest 
mountains, the water is alive with countless hosts of dimi- 
nutive phosphoric creatures, which, when attracted to the 

The Ocean and its Life. 


surface, convert every wave into a crest of light, and the 
wide ocean into a sea of fire. It is well known that the 
abundance of these minute beings, and of the animal mat- 
ter supplied by their rapid decomposition, is such, that 
the sea water itself becomes a nutritious fluid to many 
of the largest dwellers in the ocean. Still, they all have 
their own homes, even their own means of locomotion. 
They are not bound to certain regions of that great country 
below the ocean's waters. They travel far and fast ; cur- 
rents, unknown to man, carry them, in vast masses, from 
the Pole to the Equator, and often from Pole to Pole, 
so that the whale must travel, with locomotive speed, to 
follow the medusse of the Arctic to the seas of the An- 
tilles, if he will not dispense with his daily food. How 
strange a chase! The giant of the seas racing in fu- 
rious haste after hardly visible, faintly colored balls of 

But, for other purposes, also, there is incessant travel 
going on in the ocean's hidden realm. Water is the true 
and proper element of motion. Hence, we find here the 
most rapid journeys, the most constant changes from 
zone to zone. No class of animals travel so much and 
so regularly as fish, and nowhere, in the vast household 
of nature, do we see so clearly the close relation between 
the wants of man, and the provision made for them by a 
bountiful Providence. The first herrings that appeared in 
the waters of Holland, used to be paid for by their weight 
in gold, and a Japanese nobleman spent more than a 
thousand ducats for a brace of common fish, when it pleased 
his Japanese majesty to order a fish dinner at his house 

100 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

ill the depth of winter, when all fish leave the coasts of 
his country. 

Now singly, now in shoals, fish are constantly seen 
moving through the ocean. The delicate mackerel travels 
towards the south, the small, elegant sardine of the Medi- 
terranean, moves, in spring, westward, and returns in fall 
to the east. The sturgeon of northern seas, sails lonely 
up the large rivers of the continent of Europe, and has 
been found in the very heart of Germany, under the shadow 
of the famous cathedral of Strasburg. Triangular masses 
of salmon press up nearly all northern rivers, and are 
sometimes so numerous, so closely packed, that they ac- 
tually impede the current of large rivers. Before their 
arrival, countless millions of herrings leave the same wa- 
ters, but where their home is, man has not yet found 
out. Only in the spring months there suddenly appear 
vast banks of this remarkable fish, two or three miles 
wide, and twenty to thirty miles long, and so dense are the 
crowds, so great their depth, that lances and harpoons — 
even the sounding lead — thrown at random amongst them, 
do not sink, but remain standing upright. What numbers 
are devoured by sharks and birds of prey, is not know^n; 
what immense quantities are caught along the coast, to 
be spread as manure on the fields inland, is beyond all 
calculation ; and yet it has been ascertained that over a 
thousand millions alone, are annually salted for winter con- 
sumption ! 

The life of the ocean is gigantic in numbers not only, 
but also in all its dimensions. Whales of a hundred feet 
length and more, are the largest of all animals on earth, 

The Ocean and its Life. 


five times as long as the elephant, the giant of the firm 
land. Turtles weighing a thousand pounds, are found in 
more than one sea. The rocky islands of the southern 
Arctic alone, furnish a yearly supply of a million of sea- 
lions, sea-cows, and seals. Huge birds rise from the foam- 
covered waves, their homes never seen by human eye, 
their young ones bred in lands unknown to man. Islands 
are formed, and mountains raised, by the mere dung of 
generations of smaller birds. And yet nature is here also 
greatest in her smallest creations. For how fine must, for 
instance, be the texture of sinews and muscles, of nerves 
and blood-vessels, in animals that never reach the size of 
a pea, or even a pin's head ! 

The ocean has not only its mountains and plains, its 
turf moors and sandy deserts, its rivers and sweet springs, 
gushing forth from hidden recesses, and rising through the 
midst of salt water, but it has also its lofty forests, with 
luxuriant parasites, its vast prairies and blooming gardens ; 
landscapes, in fine, fixr more gorgeous and glorious than 
all the splendor of the firm land. It is true that but 
two kinds of plants, algce or fucus, prosper upon the 
bottom of the sea, the one a jointed kind, having a 
threadlike form, the other jointless, and comprising all 
the species that grow in submarine forests, or float like 
green meadows in the open sea. But their forms are so 
varied, their colors so brilliant, their number and size so 
enormous, that they change the deep into fabulous fairy 
gardens. And, as branches and leaves of firm, earth-rooted 
trees, tremble and bend on the elastic waves of the air, 
or wrestle, sighing and groaning, with the tempest's fury. 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

so " the seaweed, slimy and dark, waves its arms, so lank 
and brown," and struggles with the ocean, that pulls at 
its roots, and tears its leaves into shreds. Now and then 
the mighty adversary is victorious, and rends them from 
their home, when they wander homeless and restless, in 
long, broad masses, towards the shores of distant lands, 
where often fields are found so impenetrable, that the}' 
have saved vessels from shipwreck, and many a human 
life from the hungry waves. 

These different kinds of fucus dwell in various parts of 
the ocean, and have their own, well-defined limits. Some 
cling with hand-like roots so firmly to the rocky ground 
that, when strong waves pull and tear their upper parts, 
they often lift up gigantic masses of stone, and drag them, 
like huge anchors, for miles and miles. Most of them, 
however, love the coast, or, at least, a firm sea bottom, 
and seldom thrive lower than at a depth of forty fathoms. 
Still, they are found in every sea; the most gigantic, 
strangely enough, in the two Arctics, where they reach 
the enormous length of one thousand five hundred feet. 
Occasionally, they cover vast portions of the sea, and form 
those fabulous green meadows on deep, azure ground, 
which struck terror in the hearts of early navigators. The 
largest of these, called the Sargossa Sea, between the 
Azores and the Antilles, is a huge floating garden, stretch- 
ing, with a varying width of one to three hundred miles, 
over twenty-five degrees of latitude, so that Columbus 
spent three hopeless, endless weeks, in passing through 
this strange land of ocean-prairies ! 

Take these fuci out of their briny element, and they 

The Ocean and its Life, 


present you with forms as whimsical as luxuriant. They 
are, in truth, nothing more than shapeless masses of jelly, 
covered with a leathery surface, and mostly dividing into 
irregular branches, which occasionally end in scanty bunches 
of real leaves. The first stem is thin and dry ; it dies 
soon, but the plant continues to grow, apparently without 
limit. A few are eatable. Off Ireland grows the Carraghen- 
moss, with gracefully shaped and curled leaves, which phy- 
sicians prescribe for pectoral diseases. Another kind of 
sea-fucus furnishes the swallows of the Indian Sea with the 
material for their world-famous edible nests. The sugar- 
fucus of the Northern Sea is broad as the hand, thin as 
a line, but miles long ; well prepared, it gives the so-called 

The Antarctic is the home of the most gigantic of all 
plants of this kind. The bladder-facus grows to a length 
of a thousand feet in the very waters that are con- 
stantly congealing, and its long variegated foliage shines in 
bright crimson, or brilliant purple. The middle ribs of 
its magnificent leaves are supported underneath by huge 
bladders, which enable them to sv/im on the surface of 
the ocean. Off the Falkland Islands a fucus is found 
which resembles an apple-tree ; it has an upright trunk, 
with forked branches, grass-like leaves, and an abundance 
of fruit. The roots and stem cling by means of clasping 
fibres to rocks above high-water mark, from them branches 
shoot upwards, and its long pendent leaves hang, like the 
willow's, dreamy and wo-begone, in the restless waters. 

Besides the countless varieties of fucus, the bottom of 
the sea is overgrown with the curled, deep purple leaves 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

of tlio sea-lettuce, with large, porous lichens, and many- 
branched, hollow alga), full of life and motion in their rosy 
little bladders, thickly set with ever-moving, tiny arms. 

These plants form sub-marine forests, growing one into 
another, in apparently lawless order, here interlacing their 
branches, there forming bowers and long avenues; at one 
time thriving abundantly until the thicket seems impene- 
trable, then again leaving large openings between wold 
and wold, where smaller plants form a beautiful pink turf 
There a thousand hues and tinges shine and glitter in 
each changing light. In the exuberance of their luxuriant 
growth, the fuci especially seem to gratify every whim 
and freak. Creeping close to the ground, or sending long- 
stretched arms, crowned with waving plumes, up to the 
blessed light of heaven, they form pale green sea groves, 
where there is neither moon nor star, or rise up nearer 
to the surface, to be transcendently rich and gorgeous 
in brightest green, gold, and purple. And, through this 
dream-like scene, playing in all the colors of the rainbow, 
and deep under the hollow, briny ocean, there sail and 
chase each other merrily, gaily painted mollusks, and bright 
shining fishes. Snails of every shape creep slowly along 
the stems, w^hilst huge, gray-haired seals hang with their 
enormous tusks on large, tall trees. There is the gigantic 
Dugong, the siren of the ancients, the sidelong shark with 
his leaden eyes, the thick-haired sea-leopard, and the slug- 
gish turtle. Look how these strange, ill-shapen forms, 
which ever keep their dreamless sleep far down in the 
gloomy deep, stir themselves from time to time! See,, 
how they drive each other from their rich pastures, how 

TiiE Ocean and its Life. 


they seem to awaken in storms, rising like islands from 
beneath, and snorting through the angry spray ! Perhaps 
they graze peacefully in the unbroken cool of the ocean's 
deep bed, when lo ! a hungry shark comes slily, silently 
around that grove ; its glassy eyes shine ghost-like with 
a yellow sheen, and seek their prey. The sea-dog first 
becomes aware of his dreaded enemy, and seeks refuge 
in the thickest recesses of the fucus forest. Jn an instant 
the whole scene changes. The oyster closes its shell w^ith 
a clap, and throws itself into the deep below ; the turtle 
conceals head and feet under her impenetrable armor, and 
sinks slowly downward ; the playful little fish disappear 
among the branches of the macrocystis ; lobsters hide un- 
der the thick, clumsily-shapen roots, and the young walrus 
alone turns boldly round and faces the intruder with his 
sharp, pointed teeth. The shark seeks to gain his un- 
protected side. The battle commences ; both seek the 
forest; their fins become entangled in the closely inter- 
woven branches ; at last the more agile shark succeeds 
in wounding his adversary's side. Despairing of life, the 
bleeding walrus tries to conceal his last agony in the 
woods, but, blinded by pain and blood, he fastens himself 
among the branches, and soon falls an easy prey to the 
shark, who greedily devours him. 

A few miles further, and the scene changes. Here lies 
a large, undisturbed oyster bed, so felicitously styled, a 
concentration of quiet happiness. Dormant though the 
soft, glutinous creatures seem to be, in their impenetrable 
shells, each individual is leading the beautiful existence 

of the epicurean god. The world without, its cares and 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

joys, its storms and calms, its passions, good and evil — 
all are indifferent to the unheeding oyster. Its whole soul 
is concentrated in itself ; its body is throbbing with life 
and enjoyment. The mighty ocean is subservient to its 
pleasures. Invisible to human eye, a thousand vibrating 
cilia move incessantly around every fibre of each fringing 
leaflet. To these the rolling waves waft fresh and choice 
food, and the flood of the current feeds the oyster, without 
requiring an effort. Each atom of water that comes in 
contact with its delicate gills, gives out its imprisoned aii, 
to freshen and invigorate the creature's pellucid blood. 

Here, in the lonely, weary sea, so restless and uneasy, 
we find, moreover, that strangest of all productions, half 
vegetable and half animal, the coral. From the tree- 
shaped limestone, springs forth the sense-endowed arm of 
the polypus ; it grows, it feeds, it produces others, and 
then is turned again into stone, burying itself in its own 
rocky home, over which new generations build at on^^ 
new rocky homes. 

Thus grows the many-shaped, far-branched coral-tree; 
but where the plants of the upper world bear leaves and 
flowers, there germinates here, from out of the stone, a 
living, sensitive animal, clad in the gay form and bright 
colors of flowers, and adorned with phosphorescent bril- 
liancy. As if in a dream the animal polypus awakens in 
the stone for a moment, and like a dream it crystallizes 
again into stone. Yet, what no tree on earth, in all its 
vigor and beauty, ever could do, that is accomplished by 
these strange animal trees. They build large, powerful 
castles, and high, lofty steeples, resting upon the very 

The Ocean and its Like. 


bottom of the ocean, rising stone upon stone, and cemented 
like no other building on this globe. 

For they are a strange mysterious race, these " maidens 
of the ocean," as the old Greelvs used to call them. Their 
beauty of form and color, their marvellous economy, their 
gigantic edifices, all had early attracted the attention of 
the curious, and given rise to fantastic fables, and amus- 
ing errors. For centuries the world believed that these 
bright-colored, delicate flowers, which, out of their element, 
appeared only humble, brown stones, were real, fragile 
sea-plants, which the contact with air instantaneously turned 
into stone. Even the last century adhered yet to this 
belief, and only repeated and energetic efforts succeeded 
in establishing their claim to a place in the animal king- 
dom. Charles Darwin, at last, in the charming account 
he has given us of his voyages, set all errors aside, and 
made us familiar with this most wondrous of all creatures. 

Now we all know their atolls and coral-rings, in the 
warm seas of the tropics, with the green crowns of slen- 
der palm-trees waving over them in the breeze, and man 
living securely in their midst. For in vain has he him- 
self tried to protect his lands against the fury of the 
ocean, in vain has he labored and pressed all the forces 
of nature, even all-powerful steam, into his service. But 
the minute polypi work quietly and silently. Math mod- 
est industry, in their never-ceasing struggle with the 
mighty waves of the sea. A struggle it is, for, strangely 
enough, they never build in turbid, never in still waters; 
their home is amid the most violent breakers, and living 
force, though so minute, triumphs victoriously over the 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

blind, terrible might of furious waves. Thus they build, 
year after year, century after century, until at last their 
atolls inclose vast lakes in the midst of the ocean, where 
eternal peace reigns, undisturbed by the stormy waves and 
the raging tempest. But when their marvellous structure 
reaches the surface, it rises no further, for the polypi are 
true children of the deep, and as soon as sun and air 
touch them they die. 

Like enchanted islands, these circular reefs of the corals 
bask in the brightest light of the tropics. A light green 
ring incloses a quiet mland lake, the ground is white, and 
being shallow, shines brilliantly in the gorgeous floods of 
light, whilst without the dark, black billows of the ocean 
approach in a line of breakers, rushing incessantly in white 
foam against the cliffs; above them an ever pure, deep 
blue ether; and far beyond, the dark ocean and the hazy 
air blending at the horizon and melting harmoniously into 
one another. The effect is peculiarly grand and almost 
magical, when the coral rings are under water, and the 
huge, furious breakers toss up their white crests in vast 
circles around the still, calm waters within, whilst no land, 
no rock is seen to rise above the surface of the ocean. 

Frequently large reefs, richly studded with graceful palms, 
surround on all sides lofty mountains, around whose foot 
there grows a luxuriant, tropical vegetation. Inside of 
these reefs the water is smooth and mirror-like, basking 
in the warm sunlight ; without, there is eternal w^arfare ; 
raging, foaming surges swell and rush in fierce attack 
against the firm wall, besieging it year after year, century 
after century. Thus, the tiny polypi protect proud man 

The Ocean and its Life. 


on his threatened island against the destructive flood : 
polypi struggling boldly against the unmeasured ocean ! 
If all the nations on earth united, they could not build 
the smallest of these coral reefs in the ocean — but the 
corals build a part of the crust of the great earth! For 
their islands count alone in the South Sea by thousands; 
all but a few feet above the surface of the sea, which, 
around, is unfathomable ; all ring-shaped, with a peaceful 
lake in the centre ; all consisting of no other material but 
that of still living corals. These islands are planted and 
peopled by the same waves, by whom they were raised 
above high-water mark. The currents bring seed and 
carry large living trees from distant shores ; lizards dwell- 
ing in their roots, birds nestling in their branches, and 
insects innumerable arrive with the tree, and water birds 
soon give life to the scanty, little strip of newly made 

Thus they meet below, plant and animal ; the pale, 
hueless fucus twining its long, ghastly arms around the 
bright scarlet coral, and through their branches glides the 
nautilus with wide-spread sails. Every ray of light that 
falls on the surface, changes hue and tinge below. But 
the deep has lights of its own. There is the glimmer of 
gorgeous fish in gold and silver armor, the phosphorescent 
sheen of the milk-white or sky-blue bells of brilliant 
medusae, as they pass through the purple-colored tops of 
lofty fuci, and the bright, sparkling light of tiny, gelatinous 
creatures, chasing each other along the blue and olive- 
green hedges of algse and humbler plants. When day 
fades, and night covers with her dark mantle the sea also, 

110 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

these fantastic gardens begin to shine in new, mysterious 
light; green, yellow, and red flames are seen to kindle 
and to fiide away ; bright stars twinkle in every direction, 
even the darkest recesses blaze up now and then, in bright 
flashes of light, and fitful rays pass incessantly to and fro 
in the wild, dark world beneath the waves. Broad fur- 
rows of flashing light mark the track of the dolphins 
through the midst of the foaming waters. Troops of por- 
poises are sporting about, and as they cut through the 
glistening flood, you see their mazy path bright with in- 
tense and sparkling light. There also passes the huge 
moonfish, shedding a pale spectral light from every fin 
and scale, through the crowd of brilliant starfish, whilst 
afar from the coast of Ceylon are heard the soft, melan- 
choly accents of the singing mussel, like the distant notes 
of an ^Eolian harp, and yet louder than even the breakers 
on the rocky shore. But the great sea itself is not silent. 
Listen, and you will hear how the gray old ocean, heaving 
in a gentle motion, sings in an undertone, chiming in with 
the great melody, until ^11 the sweet sounds of sea, earth, 
and air melt into one low voice alone, that murmurs over 
the weary sea and, low or high, ever sings eternal praise 
to the throne of Him, who " is mightier than the noise 
of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." 

The great botanist, Schleiden, tells us how, ofl" the coast 
of the island of Sitka, the bottom of the sea is covered 
with dense and ancient forests, where plant grows close 
to plant, and branch intertwines with branch. Below, there 
lies a closely woven carpet of rich hues, made of count- 
less threads of tiny waterplants, red confervse, and brown- 

The Ocean and its Life. 


rooted mosses, each branching off into a thousand finely 
traced leaves. On this soft couch the luxuriant sea-lettuce 
spreads its broad, elegant leaves, a rich pasture for peaceful 
snails, and sluggish turtles. Between them shine the gi- 
gantic leaves of the irides in brilliant scarlet or delicate 
pink, whilst along reef and cliff the dark olive-green fuci 
hang in rich festoons, and half cover the magnificent sea- 
rose in its unsurpassed beauty. Like tall trees the lami- 
naria spread about, waving in endless broad ribbons along 
the currents, and rising high above the dense crowd. 
Alaria send up their long naked stems, which at last ex- 
pand into a huge, unsightly leaf of more than fifty feet in 
length. But the sea-forest boasts of still loftier trees, for 
the nereocysti rise to a height of seventy feet ; beginning 
with a coral-shaped root, they grow up in a thin, thread- 
like trunk, which gradually thickens, until its club-shaped 
form grows into an enormous bladder, from the top of 
which, like a crest on a gigantic helmet, there waves 
proudly a large bunch of delicate but immense leaves. 
These are the palms of the ocean, and these forests grow, 
as by magic, in a few months, cover the bottom of the 
sea with a most luxuriant growth, and then wither and 
vanish, only to reappear soon again in greater richness 
and splendor. And what crowds of strange, ill-shapen, 
and unheard of moUusks, fish, and shellfish move among 
them ! Here they are huge balls, there many cornered 
or starlike, then again long streaming ribbons. Some are 
armed with large, prominent teeth, others with sharp saws, 
whilst a few, when pursued, make themselves invisible by 
emitting a dark vapor-like fluid. Here, glassy, colorless 

112 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

eyes stare at you with dull, imbecile light — there, deep 
blue or black eyes glare with almost human sense and 
unmistakable cunning. Through bush and through thicket 
there glide the hosts of fierce, gluttonous robbers who fill 
the vast deep. But not only the animals of the ocean 
pasture and hunt there ; man also stretches out his covetous 
hand and demands his share. 

Proud ships with swelling sails disdain not to arrest 
their bird-like flight, to carry off vast fucus forests which 
they have torn up from the bottom of the sea, in order 
to manufacture kelp or iodine from the ashes, or to fish 
at the peril of their lives for bright corals in the depth. 
In the streets of Edinburgh the cry of " buy pepper-dulse 
and tangle" is heard in our day, and the Irish fisherman 
boldly faces death to snatch a load of Carraghen-moss 
from the rapid current. The poor peasant of Normandy 
gathers the vast heaps of decaying fuci, which wind and 
wave have driven to his shore, in order to carry them 
painfully, miles and miles, as manure to his fields, and 
the so-called sheep-fucus supports the flocks and herds of 
cattle in many a northern island in Scotland and in Nor- 
way, through their long, dreary winters. The men of 
Iceland and of Greenland diligently grind some farinaceous 
kind of fucus into flour, and subsist, with their cattle, upon 
this strange food for many months, whilst their wives 
follow Paris fashion, and rouge themselves with the red 
flower of the purple fucus. 

Here, however, one of the great mysteries which the 
ocean suggests, often startles the thinking observer. For 
whom did the Almighty create all this wealth of beauty 

The Ocean and its Life. 


and splendor? Why did He conceal the greatest wonders, 
the most marvellous creations of nature under that azure 
veil, the mirror-like surface of which reflects nearly every 
ray of light, and mostly returns, as if in derision, the 
searcher's own face as his only reward ? 

But because all the varied forms, all the minute details 
are not seen, is therefore the impression, which the ocean 
produces on our mind, less striking or less permanent'? 
We count not the stars in heaven, we see even but a 
small number of all, and yet the starry sky has never 
failed to lift up the mind of man to his Maker. So with 
the ocean. His way is in the sea, and His path in the 
great waters. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters ; 
the Lord is upon many waters. From olden times the 
ocean has ever been to the nations of the earth the type 
of all that is great, powerful, infinite. All the fictions 
of the Orient and Eastern India, all the myths of Greece 
of the "earth-embracing Okeanus," and even the Jewish 
tradition that "the earth was without form and void, and 
the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," 
speak of the sea as the great source of all life, the very 
dwelling-place of the Infinite. 

There are nations who never see the ocean. How dream- 
like, how fantastic are their ideas of the unknown world! 
German poetry abounds with wild, fanciful dreams of mer- 
maids and mermen, and even the sailor-nation has its fa- 
vorite legends of the Ancient Mariner, and a Tennyson 
has sung of fabled mermen and their loves. But truly has 
it been said that "they that go down to the sea in ships, 

J. 14 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

that do business in great waters, these see the works of 
Jehovah and his wonders in the deep." 

Uniform and monotonous as the wide ocean often ap- 
pears, it has its clianges, and is now mournful, now cheery 
and bright. Only when the wind is lulled and a calm 
has soothed the angry waves, can the ocean be seen in 
its quiet majesty. But the aspect is apt to be dreary 
and lonely ; whether we see the dark waves of the sea 
draw lazily in and out of rocky riffs, or watch wearily 
the sea's perpetual swing, the melancholy wash of end- 
' less waves." Away from the land there is nothing so full 
of awe and horror as a perfectly calm sea : man is spell- 
bound, a magic charm seems to chain him to the glassy 
and transparent waters; he cannot move from the fatal 
spot, and death, slow, fearful, certain death, stares him in 
the face. He trembles as his despairing gaze meets the 
upturned, leaden eye of the shark, patiently waiting for 
him, or as he hears, far below, the sigh of some grim 
monster, slowly shifting on his uneasy pillow of brine. 
Fancy knows but one picture more dreadful yet than tem- 
pest, shipwreck, or the burning of a vessel out at sea : 
it is a ship on the great ocean in a calm, with no hope 
for a breeze. Wild and waste is the view. On the .same 
sunshine, on the same waves the poor mariners gaze day 
by day with languid eye, even until the heart is sick and 
the body perishes. 

At other times it is the gladsome ocean, full of proud 
ships, of merry waves, and ceaseless motion, that greet the 
eye. Then the wild, shoreless sea, on which the waves 
have rolled for thousands of years in unbroken might, 

The Ocean and its Life. 


fills the mind with the idea of infinity, and thought, escap. 
ing from all visible impression of space and time, rises 
to sublimest contemplations. Yet, the sight of the clear, 
transparent mirror of the ocean, with its light, curling, 
sportive waves, cheers the heart like that of a friend, and 
reminds us that here, as upon the great sea of life, even 
when the wrecked mariner has been cast among the raging 
billows, an unseen hand has often guided him to a happy 
shore. For He raleth the raging of the sea : when the 
waves thereof rise. He stilleth them. 

This sense of the Infinite, suggested and awakened by 
the vast expanse of restless and uneasy waters is, however, 
not unmixed with a feeling of deep mysterious awe. The 
mind cannot seize nor comprehend this boundless gran- 
deur ; hence its mysteriousness. The eye cannot see, no 
sense can, in fact, perceive the connection between the stu- 
pendous phenomena on the wide ocean and the fate of 
man. To human eyes the surging billows and the tower- 
ing waves are both raised by an invisible, unknown power, 
and their depth is peopled with beings uncouth, ungov- 
erned, and unknown. The sea is lonely, the sea is dreary, 
like a wide, watery waste, compared with the gay, bright 
colors of the land, and the might of gigantic waves that 
rush from age to age against the bulwarks of continent 
and isle, seems irresistible and able to destroy the world's 
foundation. Thus the ocean awakens in us feelings of dark 
mystery and grim power ; the Infinite carries us off beyond 
the limits of familiar thought, and the sea becomes the 
home of fabled beings and weird images. All sea-shore 
countries teem with such stories, legends and traditions ; 

116 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the fickle sea, the envious ocean, the fierce, hungry waves, 
the furious breakers, all become the representatives of so 
many human passions. Our fancy peoples the ocean with 
sweet, luring sirens, endowed with magic power to weave 
a spell and to draw the yielding mariner down to the 
green crystal halls beneath the waves. There sea-kings 
and morgana fairies live in enchanted palaces ; monsters 
of unheard size and shape flit ghost-like through that dark, 
mysterious realm, and huge snakes trail themselves slowly 
from "their coiled sleep in the central deep, amidst all 
the dry pied things that lie in the hueless mosses under 
the sea." The bewildered and astounded mind tries, in 
his own way, to connect the great phenomena of nature 
with his fite and the will of the Almighty. It sees in 
homeless, restless birds the harbingers of the coming storm, 
in flying fishes the spirits of wrecked seamen, and points 
to the riying Dutchman and the Ancient Mariner as illus- 
trations of the justice of God's wrath. 

The strong mind, the believing soul, of course, shake 
off all such idle dreams and vain superstitions. To them 
the sea is the very source of energy and courage. The 
life at sea is a life of unceasing strife and struggle. Hence 
all sea-faring nations are warlike, fond of adventures, and 
poetical. But the sea's greatest charm is, after all, its 
freedom. The free, unbounded ocean, where man feels no 
restraint, sees no narrow limits, where he must rely upon 
his own stout heart, strong in fiiith, where he is alone 
with his great Father in heaven, gives him a sense of 
his own freedom and strength, like no other part of the 
earth, and makes him return to the sea, its perils and 

The Ocean and its Life. 


sufferings, in spite of all the peace and happiness that the 
land can afford him. lie knows that even if he dwell in 
the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall His hand 
lead him and His right hand shall hold him. 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 


% C|at about |laiits. 

" If we could open and unbind our eyes, 
"We all, like Moses, should espj--, 

E'en in a bush, the radiant Deity. 

But we despise these, his inferior ways, 

(Tho' no less full of miracle and praise): 
Upon the flowers of heaven we gaze; 

The stars of earth no wonder in us raise, 
Tho' these perhaps do, more than they, 
The life of mankind sway/"— Cowley. 

ONG years ago I was in the Holy Land. It was the 

last day I was to spend near Jerusalem, and as the 
sun sank towards the blue waters of the Mediterranean, 
I found myself once more sitting on the banks of the 
Jordan. The air was perfectly calm ; the tolling of a con- 
vent bell came fliintly over the plain from Bethlehem, and 
mingled its well-beat cadences with the gentle, playful mur- 
muring of the sacred stream at my feet. By my side sat 
an Arab, tranquilly following with his eye the light clouds 
of his pipe, as they gracefully rose up in the clear, blue 
ether, but apparently buried in deep thought. I had known 

^ A Chat about Plants. 


him in his desert home, I had eaten his salt. He was a 
Sheikh, and revered as a saint among his brethren. He 
had now come with me^from the far south, first my guide, 
but now my friend and companion. Abu Abdallah was 
his name; so I said, "Abu Abdallah, do you believe in 
God?" "Thou sayest it, oh brother!" was his quiet an- 
sw^er. "But Abu Abdallah, I fear you do not believe 
that your soul is immortal ;" for the old Arab, though my 
friend for the while, was a sad thief, and when he swiftly 
rode through the desert, there vrere voices heard, it was 
said, mournful voices of men, who called for the sweet 
life he had taken from them. He gazed at me for an 
instant from the depth of that unfathomable eye, the pre- 
cious heirloom of a son of the Orient, but vouchsafed not 
a word. I was struck by his silence, and asked again, 
" Oh brother, oh brother, thou wTongest me I" he said, and 
quietly rising, he seized upon a little shapeless mass, that 
lay half hid in the fragrant herbs at our feet, and gently 
pushing it into the purling stream, he added : " Has not 
the God of our fathers, whose prophet is Mahomet, given 
us the Rose of Jericho ? And does not my brother, wdio 
reads the books of the wise men of the Franks, know that 
the burning sands of the desert are its home, and that 
it delights in the fiery wunds of the Avest, which scatter 
the caravan, and strew the sands of the Sahara with the 
bones of the traveller 1 There it grows and blossoms, and 
our children love it. But the season comes again, and it 
withers and dies. And the dread simoom rises, and seizes 
the dry, shrivelled roots, that my brother beholds there, 
and on the wings of the temr-i-^t the Rose of Jericho rides 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

far far east, until it falls upon holy soil. Now let my 
brother wait and he shall see !" 

And we did wait, waited until the shadows grew long, 
and dreamy dusk co veered mountain and plain. And the 
little shapeless mass became a miracle indeed, and right 
before our eyes ! The roots had expanded, the leaves had 
unfolded, life and breath had returned to the dead child 
of the Sahara, and the very blossoms began to show, and 
to rival the faint rosy tints of the evening sun ! 

I inever forgot that lesson of immortality — I never 
forgot that Rose of Jericho. On my return to Eu- 
rope I learned that botanists called it " Anastatica," the 
flower of resurrection. I wished to know more about 
it, and that was the way I first learned something about 

I found botany very little attractive — very little de- 
serving of its ancient name of the " lovely science." 1 
found that botanists would go out into the fields, their text- 
books in their pockets, and gather the tender children of 
Flora into huge maps, then dry them and classify them, 
describe their head-dress and uniform, their rank and dig- 
nity, and finally deposit them in magnificent herbariums. 
There they were, well, dried and well pasted, clad, to be 
sure, in all the pomp and circumstance of high-sounding 
names — so much Latin hay. But where was their color 
and graceful shape? where the breath of air that made 
them gently wave to and fro 1 where the sweet perfumes 
they gratefully sent up to their ]\Iaker ? where the bright 
water at their side, in which they reflected their lovely 
form*? where the whole glorious scene for which they were 

A CiiAT ABOUT Plants. 


intended by Nature, and to which they lent, in return, lifo 
and beauty? 

Botanists of old collected the material only — not without 
bestowing unceasing industry upon it, not without making 
unheard of sacrifices, often of the very lives of devoted 
laborers in that field of science — but they were content 
with a form only and a name. They were like the French 
ofiicer who, in one of the French revolutions, came to 
Kome, and there had the good fortune to discover a highly 
important inscription on a monument, dating far back into 
antiquity. Proudly, and carefully, he detached one bronze 
letter after another, then slipped them, all loosely, into a 
bag, and sent them to the antiquarians of Paris to be 

But there have arisen, within the last thirty years es- 
pecially, men w^ho have studied plants with the view, not 
only to know who they were, but rather what they were, 
how they lived and how they died, what their relation 
was to the world, and what their purpose in the great 
household of Nature. Kindred sciences have lent their 
aid ; the microscope has laid open the innermost recesses 
of plants ; travellers have brought home new, comprehen- 
sive views, and an insight has at last been gained into 
the life of the world of plants. Great, startling discoveries 
have there been made, new truths and new beauties have 
been revealed to us, and natural science has unfolded the 
most delicate resources and most curious relations in the 
vegetable kingdom. 

Thus w^e have learned, that it is a fallacy — to be sure 
as old as botany itself — that plants have no motion. Aris- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

totle, it is true, had a curious idea, that they were buried 
in deep slumber, out of which nothing could awake them, 
and that thus, by a kind of enchantment, they were spell- 
bound, until the great word should be spoken, that was 
to restore them to life and motion. Modern science also 
teaches that the characteristic of organic bodies is inde- 
pendent motion, that of inorganic, rest. But plants have 
both life and motion ; we dare not, as yet, say whether 
it be the effect of a mere dream, of a mechanical pressure 
from without, or of instinctive life within. For what do 
we as yet know of the simplest functions of the inner 
life of plants'? Who has not, however, observed how the 
pale sap courses now through the colossal stems of gigantic 
trees, and now through the delicate veins of a frail leaf, 
as rapidly and marvellously as through the body of a 
man? Take a microscope and you will see the plant full 
of life and motion. All its minute cells are filled with 
countless little currents, now rotary and now up and down, 
often evefn apparently lawless, but always distinctly marked 
by tiny grains which are seen to turn in them or to rise 
without ceasing. In this world nothing is motionless, says 
a modern philosopher. Let the air be so still, that not a 
breath shall be felt to creep through it, and yet the forest 
leaves will seem stirred as if in silent prayer. The earth 
moves small things and great, all obey the same law, and 
the little blade of grass goes around the sun as swiftly 
as the tallest pine. The very shadow dances, as if in idle 
mockery, around the immovable flower, and marks the 
passing hours of sunshine. 

But plants move not only where they stand — they travel 

A Chat about Plants. 


also. They migrate from land to land, sometimes slowly, 
inch by inch, then again on the wings of the storm. Bot- 
anists tell us of actual migrations of plants, and a sue 
cessive extension of the domain of particular floras, jus/ 
as we speak of the migration of idioms and races. In 
dividual plants, however, travel only as man ought to 
travel, when they are young. If they have once found 
a nome, they «;ettle quietly down, grow, blossom, and bear 
fruit. Therefore /t is, that plants travel only in the seed. 
For this purpose, seeds possess often special organs for 
a long journey through the air. Sometimes they are put, 
like small bombshells, into little mortars, and fired off 
with great precision. Thus arise the well-known emerald 
rings on our greensward, and on the vast prairies of the 
West, which some ascribe to electricity, whilst the poet 
loves to see in them traces of the moonlight revels of 
fairies. The truth is scarcely less poetical. A small cir 
cular fungus squats down on a nice bit of turf It pros- 
pers and fills with ripening seed. When it matures, it 
discharges its tiny balls in a circle all around, and then 
sinks quietly in the ground and dies. Another season, 
and its place is marked by an abundance of luxuriant 
grass, feeding upon its remains, whilst around it a whole 
ring of young fungi have begun to flourish. They die 
in their turn, and so the circle goes on enlarging and 
enlarging, shifting rapidly because fungi exhaust the soil 
soon of all matter necessary for their growth, and closely 
followed by the rich grass, that fills up their place, and 
prevents them from ever retracing their steps. 

A similar irritability enables other plants to scatter 

124 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

their seeds far and near, by means of springs bent back, 
until a breath of wind, a falling leaf, or the wing of an 
insect, causes them to rebound, and thus to send the pollen 
with which they are loaded often to a great distance. The 
so-called Touch-me-not balsam scatters its ripe seeds, by 
such a contrivance, in all directions, and the squirting cu- 
cumber is furnished, for the same purpose, with a complete 
fire-engine. Some of the geraniums, also, of our green- 
houses have their fruit-vessels so curiously constructed, that 
the mere contact with another object, and frequently the 
heat of the sun alone, suffice to detach the carpels, one 
by one, with a snapping sound, and so suddenly as to 
cause a considerable jerk, which sends the seeds far away- 
Other fruit-vessels again have, as is well known, con- 
trivances the most curious and ingenious, by which they 
press every living thing that comes near them into their 
service, and make it convey them whithersoever they 
please. Every body is familiar with the bearded varie- 
ties of wheat and other grain ; they are provided with 
little hooks, which they cunningly insert into the wool or 
hair of grazing cattle, and thus they are carried about 
until they find a pleasant place for their future home. 
Some who do not like to obtain services thus by hook 
and crook, succeed by pretended friendship, sticking closely 
to their self-chosen companions. They cover their little 
seeds with a most adhesive glue, and when the busy bee 
comes to gather honey from their sweet blossoms, which 
they jauntily hang out to catch the unwary insect, the seeds 
adhere to its body, and travel thus on four fine wings 
through the wide, wide world. Bee fanciers know very 

A Chat about Plants. 


well the common disease of their sweet friends, when so 
much pollen adheres to their head that they cannot fly, 
and must miserably perish, one by one, under the heavy 
burden which these innocent-looking plants have compelled 
them to carry. We have but little knowledge as yet of 
the activity of life in the vegetable world, and of its mo- 
mentous influence on the welfare of our own race. Few 
only know that the gall-fly of Asia Minor decides on the 
existence of ten thousands of human beings. As our clip- 
pers and steamers carry the produce of the land from 
continent to continent, so these tiny sailors of the air per- 
form, under the direction of Divine Providence, the im- 
portant duty of carrying pollen, or fertilizing dust, from 
fig-tree to fig-tree. Without pollen there can be no figs, 
and, consequently, on their activity and number depends 
the productiveness of these trees; they, therefore, regulate 
in fact the extensi-ve and profitable fig trade of Smyrna. 
A little, ugly beetle of Kamschatka has, in like manner, 
more than once saved the entire population of the most 
barren part of Greenland from apparently certain starva- 
tion. He is a great thief in his way, and a most fastidious 
gourmand, moreover. Nothing will satisfy him on a long 
winter evening — and we must charitably bear in mind that 
these evenings sometimes last five months without inter- 
ruption — but a constant supply of lily bulbs. The lilies 
are well content with this arrangement, for the being eaten 
is as natural to them as to a Feejee-islander ; and they 
are, as compensation, saved from being crowded to death 
in a narrow space, whilst those that escape the little glut- 
ton, shoot up merrily, next summer, in rich pastures. Still 

126 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

better content are the Greenlanders ; for, when their last 
mouthful of meat, and their last drop of train-oil are gone, 
they dig and rob the little, provident beetle of his care- 
fully hoarded treasure, and, by its aid, n.anage to live until 
another season. It is thus that we see every where the 
beautiful and close bonds of love connecting even those 
parts of creation which seem to be without sense or volun- 
tary motion, humble subjects of their masters, the elements, 
and which yet respond to the action of those mysterious 
powers, that rule, under God, in nature. The flower opens 
its gorgeous chalice, filled with rich honey, to the tiny 
insect ; the insect, in return, carries the fructifying pollen 
to the flower's distant mate, and thus propagates it anew. 
The herbs of the field send forth their luxuriant tufts 
of leaves for the browsing cattle, and sheep and oxen 
carry the seed in their hides from meadow to meadow. 
The trees themselves, pknted by stones that birds have 
dropped, grow and flourish until " they are strong, and the 
height thereof reaches unto heaven, and the beasts of the 
field have shadow under it, and (he fowls of heaven dwell 
in the boughs thereof." 

When neither quadruped nor insect can be coaxed or 
forced to transport the young seed^ that wish to see the 
world, they sometimes launch forth on their own account, 
and trust to a gentle breeze or a light current of air, 
rising from the heated surflice of the earth. It is true, 
nature has given them wings to fly with, such as man 
never yet was skilful enough to devise for his own use. 
The maple — our maple, I mean — has genuine little wings, 
with which it flies merrily about in its early days ; others, 

A Chat about Plants. 


like the dandelion and the anemone, have light downy ap- 
pendages, or little feathery tutlts and crowns, by which they 
are floated along on the lightest breath of air, and enjoy, 
io their heart's content, long autumnal wanderings. These 
airy appendages are marvellously well adapted for the 
special purpose of each plant: some but just large enough 
to waft the tiny grain up the height of a molehill, others 
strong enough to carry the seed of the cedar from the 
low valley to the summit of Mount Lebanon. The proudest 
princes of the vegetable kingdom often depend for their 
continuance on these little feathery tufts, which but few 
observers are apt to notice. A recent writer tells us that, 
some years ago, the only palm-tree the city of Paris 
could then boast of, suddenly blossomed. Botanists were 
at a loss how to explain the apparent miracle, and sceptics 
began to sneer, and declared that, the laAvs of nature had 
failed. An advertisement appeared in the papers, inquiring 
for the unknown mate of the solitary tree. And behold, 
in an obscure court-yard away off, there had lived, un- 
known and unnoticed, another small palm ; it also had 
blossomed apparently alone and in vain — but a gentle 
breeze had come, and carried its flower-dust to its dis- 
tant companion, and the first palm-flowers ever seen in ^ 
France were the result of this unseen mediation. 

Reckless wanderers, also, there are among the plants, 
who waste their substance, and wildly rove about in the 
world. The rose of Jericho, which we have already no- 
ticed, and a club-moss of Peru, are such erratic idlei's that 
wander from land to land. When they have blossomed 
and borne fruit, and when the dry season comes, they 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

wither, fold their leaves together, and draw up their roots, 
so as to form a light, little ball. In this form they are 
driven hither and thither on the wings of the wind, rolling 
along the plains in spirit-like dance, now whirling in great 
circles about, now caught by an eddy and rising suddenly 
high into the air. It is not until they reach a moist 
place that they care to rest a while, but then they settle 
down at once, send down their roots, unfold their leaves, 
assume a bright green, and become quiet, useful citizens 
in their own great kingdom of plants. 

There are, however, thousands of plants having neither 
servants nor wings to gratify their wishes, who seem con- 
demned to see their offspring die at their feet. But here 
again we see how the resources of nature are always far 
superior to the apparent difficulty. These very seeds which 
seemed so hopelessly lost, often travel flistest of all ; they 
travel on the wings of birds. The latter steal our fruit, 
our cherries and grapes ; they carry them off to some con- 
venient place, eat the pulpy part, and drop the stone or 
the seed where it is most likely to find a genial soil and 
a sheltered home. Even their evil propensities must thus 
serve the purposes of nature. Jays and pies, it is well 
known, are fond of hiding grains and acorns among grass 
or moss and in the ground, and then, poor things, forget 
the hiding place, and lose all their treasure. Squirrels, 
also, marmots and mice bury nuts under ground, and oflen 
so deep that neither light nor warmth can reach the hid- 
den store. But then comes man, and cuts down the pine- 
wood, and lo ! to the astonishment of all, a young coppice 
of oaks shoots up, and the wonder is, where all the acorns 

A Chat about Plants. 


have so suddenly come from. It is not without- its ludi- 
crous side, to see even the ingenuity of men baffled by 
these unconscious but faithful servants of nature. We arc 
told that the Dutch, with a kind of sublime political wis- 
dom, destroy the plants that produce our nutmeg, for the 
purpose of keeping up their monopoly, and high prices 
into the bargain, by the limited amount of the annual 
produce, which is entirely in their hands. With this view, 
they used to cut down every tree of the kind in the 
Molucca Islands, where it was originally indigenous, and 
to punish, with the severest penalties, the mere posses- 
sion of a nut. But it so l^appens that a little bird of 
the same Moluccas, also, is fond of these nuts ; and as 
the air cannot very well be guarded and watched, even 
by Dutch ingenuity, he insists upon eating them, and car- 
ries the seed to distant islands of the ocean, causing the 
unfortunate Hollanders infinite trouble and annoyance. 

Seeds that have not learned to fly with their own 
or other people's wings are taught to swim. Trees and 
bushes which bear nuts, love low grounds and the banks 
of rivers. Why? Because their fruit is shaped like a 
small boat, and the rivulet playing with its tiny ripples 
over silvery sands, as well as the broad wave of the 
Pacific, carry their seed alike, safely and swiftly, to new 
homes. Rivers float down the fruits of mountain regions, 
into deep valleys and to far off* coasts, and the Gulf Stream 
of our own Atlantic carries annually some of the rich 
products of the torrid zone of America to the distant 
shores of Iceland and Norway. Seeds of plants growing 
in Jamaica and Cuba have been gathered in the quiet coves 

130 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

of the Hebrides. The gigantic cocoa-nut itself, weighing 
not rarely more than five pounds, but air-tight in its close 
shell, and buoyant by its light fibrous coat, is thus drifted 
from island to island, and rides safely on the surges of 
the ocean from the Seychelles to the distant coast of 
Malabar. There it lodges, and germinates in the light 
moist sand, so that the Indians of old fancied that they 
grew under water, and called them sea-cocoas. A still 
more striking provision of nature is this, that there are 
some seeds of this kind so exquisitely adjusted to their 
future destination, as to sink in salt water, while they swim 
with safety in sweet water. 

Large vegetable masses even travel on the great waters 
of the ocean. Compact fields of marine plants are occa- 
sionally met with in the southern seas, and on the coast 
of Florida, large enough to impede the progress of vessels, 
and filled with millions of crustace£e. They are not un- 
frequently so firm and so extensive as to afford a building 
place for the nests of aquatic birds and even for quadru- 
peds, who thus float at the mercy of wind and waves to 
their new unknown home. Amid the Philippine Islands, 
also, after a typhoon, floating islands are fallen in with, 
consisting of matted plants and wood, with tall, old trees, 
growing on them. These strange, insular rafts, are carried 
along by s^\ift currents, or wafted onward by the slightest 
breath of air which fans the foliage of their dense woods, 
until, after a passage of weeks or months, they land, like 
a new ark, on some distant shore. The very plants of 
our fields, that sustain our life, are there only because 
man has been compelled to take them with him on his 

A Chat about Plants. 


travels from continent to continent. Wheat has thus left 
its first home in Asia and travelled westward around the 
world, whilst maize, and potatoes, have gone in the other 
direction, from our land to the farthest east. And, unfor- 
tunately, man had to take the bad with the good, and, 
for his sins no doubt, weeds seem to follow him more 
closely, and to adhere more tenaciously to his home, than 
all other friends, so that scholars have succeeded in de- 
termining the race of early settlers in many a country 
by studying the weeds tliat were found in the place of 
their former habitations. 

But we need not go to far-off countries to see plants 
wandering about in the world : our OAvn gardens afford 
us, though on a smaller scale, many an instance of the 
travelling propensities of these very plants that are so 
much pitied because they cannot move about and choose 
their own home. Ever}' casual observer even knows that 
many bulbs, like those of crocus, tulips, or narcissus, rise 
-or sink by forming new bulbs above or below, until they 
have reached the proper depth of soil which best suits 
their constitution — or perhaps their fancy. Some orchids 
have a regular locomotion : the old root dies, the new 
one forms invariably in one and the same direction, and 
thus they proceed onwards year after year, though at a 
very modest, stage-coach rate. Strawberries, on the con- 
trary, put on seven-league boots, and often escape from 
the rich man's garden to refresh the weary traveller by 
the wayside. Raspberries, again, mine their way stealthily 
under ground, by a subterranean, mole-like process ; blind, 
but not unguided, for they are sure to turn up in the 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

brightest, sunniest spot they could have chosen, had their 
eyes been wide open, and their proceedings above ground. 

As if in return for the manifold services which plants 
require and receive from their fellow creatures, they show 
kindness of their own to animal life, and shelter and feed 
the most timid as well as the noblest of beings, with the 
hospitality of their generous life. In early childhood al- 
ready wc are taught, that even the smallest of seeds, the 
mustard seed, grows up to be a tree, "in whose branches 
the fowls of the heavens have their habitation," that " both 
Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine 
and under his fig-tree, all the days of Solomon," and 
that Deborah, the prophetess, "dwelt under a palm-tree." 
Modern science has furnished us numerous new and strik- 
mg instances of the great variety of life, which is thus 
intimately connected with the vegetable kingdom. It is 
not only that the plaintive nightingale sings in the mur- 
muring poplar, whilst the gay butterfly loves the sweet- 
scented rose, that the sombre yew hides the owl's nest, 
and the dark northern pine harboj's the far-clad squirrel. 
Animals, invisible to the naked eye, have been found to 
float in the sap of trees, and even the smallest moss has 
its own tiny insect, which it boards and lodges. Aphides 
and gall insects live, in every sense of the word, on the 
leaves of plants, flics and butterflies on their flowers, 
and ants and worms crowd upon them, after death, in 
countless multitudes. Every plant, moreover, is inhabited 
by some insect, to which it affords an exclusive hon::o. 
Many caterpillars are thus born and die with the leaf on 
which thev live, whilst, on the other hand, the proud 

A Chat about Plants. 


monarch-oak alone supports seventy different kinds of in- 
sects — a swarm, which sets all measurement at defiance, 
and, moreover, replaces by numbers and the enornious 
voracity which they exhibit, what they want in bodily 

Already Pliny was surprised to see small ants run up 
the tall cypress, and devour its rich fruit with surprising 
avidity ; he wondered that so insignificant an insect should 
be allowed to destroy the seed of the largest tree of his 
country. But plants have to support guests of every size 
and shape. The butterfly and its less gaudy relations, 
drink with their long trunks sweet honey out of gorge- 
ously colored flower-cups ; four-winged bees carry away 
the precious dust of anthers in large spoons, fastened to 
their thighs ; gall insects pierce with sharp daggers the 
tender leaf, drink its refreshing juice, and deposit their 
eggs in the delicate texture ; beetles gnaw and saw with a 
hundred curiously shaped instruments through the hardest 
wood of noble trees, and naked, helpless-looking worms 
make the very trunk their cover and their home, and with 
sharp augers often destroy whole forests. The ingenious 
ant of South America has its winter residence in the 
warm ground, and its cool summer house on tall plants. 
Tor there grows on the banks of the Amazon river a 
gigantic reed, nearly thirty feet high, which is frequently 
crowned with a large ball of earth, like the golden globe 
on the utmost end of a lofty church steeple. This is the 
comfortable home of myriads of ants, which retire to these 
safe dwellings, high and dry, at the time of rains and 
during the period of inundation, rising and descending in 


Leaves from the Book of Nature 

the hollow of the reed, and living on what they find 
swimming on the surface of the water. Another curious 
lodger of a South American plant is the famous cochineal 
bug, well known from the precious red color that bears 
its name, and which it draws from a certain cactus until 
its body becomes impregnated with brilliant scarlet. It 
is probably the most sedentary of all insects, making but 
one short journey in early life, and then settling down 
for ever upon one and the same spot. As soon, namely, 
as the young insect leaves its egg, it manifests great ac- 
tivity and a restless desire to travel. But alas! it finds 
itself upon a prickly, thorny stem, hanging high in the 
air, and in contact with no other. But nature soon comes 
to its aid, and sends a small spider to spin a silken 
thread from branch to branch. Upon this slender, trem- 
bling bridge the young cochineal wanders boldly out to 
a new world, seeks a promising spot, deliberately sinks 
its fragile trunk into the juicy leaf — and never draws it 
back again, drinking, drinking, like a toper as he is, through 
his whole existence. 

Even larger inhabitants are often found on quite small 
plants. Thus England produces a slight but well sup- 
ported thistle, which is frequently found to bear little 
elaborate nests, a few inches above the ground. These 
contain not insects, but mice, though of the smallest 
variety known, and are occasionally large enough to hold 
as many as nine young ones, carefully stowed away and 
well secured against all enemies and dangers. 

Birds seem, of course, the most natural lodgers of 
plants; they find there abundance of nourishment, all the 

A Chat about Plants. 


material for building their nests, and a well-protected home. 
The eagle gathers the knotted branches of oaks or pines, 
to bring up his fierce brood upon the hard, uncushioned 
couch; the thorn tears a handful of wool from the passing 
sheep, for its tiny inhabitants, and the despised mullein 
covers its broad leaves with the softest of downs, to line 
the bed of the delicate children of the humming bird. 
There is probably no bush and no tree, that has not lis 
own particular bird ; every where do the fowl of the air 
find a foliage, thicker or thinner, to shelter them agair:st 
rain, heat and cold; a hollow trunk affords safe and warm 
lodgings ; soft moss carpets their dwellings, and insects 
and worms swarm around, to offer, at the same time, food 
in abundance. The birds give, in return, life and sound 
to the immovable plant. Song birds of many kinds perch 
and sing their beautiful anthems on every spray ; locusts 
thrill their monotonous and yet pleasing note among a 
world of leaves through long summer noons, and the katy- 
did utters its shrill cry during sultry nights. They all 
love their home, making it their dwelling by night and 
by day, and many are the instances in which birds, that 
had long lived in certain trees, have died from true sor- 
row, when the latter were felled. 

Monkeys, also, it is well known, are frugivorous animals, 
and by their food as well as by the peculiar structure 
of their body, so closely bound to trees that they but 
seldom leave them. The tree-frog clings to the rugged 
trunk, mingling its faded colors with those of the bark, 
and feasting upon the insects hid in each crevice. The 
unsightly sloth fastens its enormous claws to the branches, 

13G Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

and passes thus, head downward, with astoundmg alacrity, 
from tree to tree ; whilst even the black tiger of South 
America, finding the undergrowth too dense and impene- 
trable, lives on trees, and in his bloody race, leaps from 
branch to branch, until he has hunted down his exhausted 

Nor has man himself neglected to avail himself of trees, 
as a dwelling or a home. Already Lucinius Mutianus, 
an ex-Consul of Lycia, took pleasure in feasting twenty- 
one guests in a hollow plane-tree ; and modern travellers 
tell us of a gigantic Boabab in Senegambia, the interior 
of which is used as a public hall for national meetings, 
whilst its portals are ornamented with rude, quaint sculp- 
tures, cut out of the still living wood. The sacred fig- 
tree of India, which, as Milton says, is seen 

"Branching so broad along, that in the ground 
The bending twigs take root, and daughters gi-ow 
About the mother tree, a pillar's shade 
High overarch'd, with echoing walks between," 

is worshipped as sacred, and the lazy, helpless priest, the 
Bonze, builds himself a hut, not unlike a bird's cage, in 
its branches, where he spends his life, dreaming in con- 
templative indolence, under its cool, pleasant shade. Nay, 
whole nations live in the branches of trees. There is a 
race of natives in South America, west of the mouth of 
the Orinoco, the Guaranis, who have never yet been com- 
pletely subdued, thanks mainly to their curious habita- 
tions. The great Humboldt tells us, that they twine most 
skilfully the leaf-stalks of the Mauritius palm into cords, 
and weave them with great care into mats. These they 

A Chat about Plants. 


suspend high in the air from branch to branch, and cover 
them with clay ; here they dwell, and in a dark night 
the amazed and bewildered traveller may see the fires 
of their dwellings high in the tops of lofty forests. 

More civilized countries even have not left us without 
similar, though isolated instances of men who have found 
a dwelling in the trees of the forest. Evelyn tells us 
of the huge trunk of an oak in Oxfordshire, which served 
long as a prison for felons ; and he who lived in the 
shades of old Selborne "so lovely and sweet," mentions 
an elm on Blechington Green, which gave for months re- 
ception and shelter to a poor woman, whom the inhospi- 
table people would not receive into their houses. When 
she reappeared among them, he says, she held a lusty boy 
in her arms. Men are, however, more frequently buried 
than born in trees. The natives of the eastern coast of 
Africa hollow out soft, worm-eaten Boababs, and bury in 
them those who are suspected of holding communion with 
evil spirits. Their bodies, thus suspended in the dry cham- 
bers of the trunk, soon become perfect mummies. The 
Indians of Maine had a more touching custom of the kind. 
They used to turn up a young maple-tree, place the body 
of a dead chief underneath, and then let the roots spring 
back, thus erecting a sylvan monument to his memory. 

Where there is life, there are plants, and on land and 
on water, on the loftiest mountain top, and in the very 
bowels of the earth, every where does man find a plant 
to minister to his support and enjoyment, every where he 
sees plants quietly and mysteriously perform their humble 
duty in the great household of nature. Plants alone — 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

it would, at first sight, appear — have no home, for they 
seem to be at home every where. Turn up the soil, where 
you will, to any depth, and such a rich abundance of 
vegetable life is mixed with the loam, that almost instan- 
taneously plants innui.nerable spring up from seeds, which 
may have lain slumbering for thousands of years in the 
warm bosom of our mother earth. Man himself cannot 
master this exuberance of vegetable life. He may change 
it by cultivation, it is true, but that also only for a time. 
And what is a generation, or two, in comparison with the 
eternal earth? Do not, even in our day, and before our 
eyes, lofty trees raise their proud heads, where our fathers 
cut ase green turf with their sharp plough? In vain does 
man take the Alpine rose from the banks of its pure 
mountain brook and plant it in the lowly valley ; in vain 
does he bring costly seeds from the Indies and the warm 
Climes of the tropics, even to the ice-clad coast of Nor- 
way. They live and pine and die. In vain does he some- 
times seek to reverse nature itself. He places bubbling 
fountains on the top of high hills, and plants lime-trees 
and poplars between great masses of rocks ; vineyards 
must adorn his valleys, and meadows spread their soft 
velvet over mountain sides. But " naturam furca expellas, 
tamen etsi recurret." A few years' neglect, and how 
quickly she resumes her sway ! Artificial lakes become 
gloomy marshes, bowers are filled with countless briers, 
and stately avenues overgrown with reckless profusion. 
The plants of the soil declare war against the intruders 
from abroad, and claim once UiCre their birthright to the 
land of their fathers. The fine well trimmed turf is smo- 

A Chat about Plants. 


thered under a thousand coarser plants ; rank grass and 
fat clover overspread the exotics ; briers clinnb up with 
the aid of hooks and ladders, as if they were storming 
a fortress; nettles fill the urns of statues with their thick 
tufts, and unsightly mosses creep upon the very faces of 
marble beauties. Wild cherry-trees and maples seize on 
every cornice and cleft of the stately mansion ; hardy in- 
vincible roots penetrate into the slightest opening, un^il 
at last victory is declared, and the trees of the forest wave 
their rich foliage over the high turrets, and raise trium- 
phantly on spire and pinnacle, the gorgeous banner of 

Thus we gain the impression, so encouraging and pleas- 
ing to reflecting man, that all nature is everywhere fidl 
of life — a life, moreover, varied by a thousand shades and 
as yet but little known. For there is high life and low 
life among plants as among men. The stately palm raises 
its high, unbroken pillar, crowned with sculptured verdure, 
only in the hot vapors of Brazilian forests and tropical 
climes, and like a true "king of the grasses," as the ancient 
Indians called the noble tree, it must fare sumptuously 
and upon the richest of earth's gifts, before it justifies the 
prophet's saying, that " the righteous shall flourish like the 
palm-tree." How humble, by its side, the lowly moss, 
barely visible to the naked eye, clad in most modest garb, 
and yet faithfully covering, with its w^arm mantle, the 
dreary, weather-beaten boulders of northern granite, or car- 
peting our damp grottoes, and making them resplendent 
with its phosphorescent verdure ! The brilliant flower of 
Queen Victoria's namesake, the most superb cradle in 

140 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

which child was ever rocked, must needs float its rosy 
leaves on the warm bosom of the silent lakes of Guiana, 
and the aristolochia of South America, whose flowers are 
large enough to serve Indian boys as hats or helmets, 
deigns not to live, unless it can bathe its delicate roots 
in the shady waters of the Magdalen river. Theirs is the 
warm golden light of the sun, theirs the richest of soils, 
the purest of waters, an everlasting summer, an unbroken 
enjoyment. And yet, are they really more beauteous and 
graceful than the humble house-leek, which flourishes under 
circumstances that would be fatal to almost all other 
plants 1 In the very driest places, where not a blade of 
grass, not a spire of moss can grow, on naked rocks, old 
crumbling walls, or sandy, parched plains, these step- 
children of nature are seen to thrive and to prosper. 
Alternately exposed to the heaviest dews at night, and the 
fiercest rays of the noonday sun, they withstand all, and 
live upon so small a particle of soil, that it seems to 
them more a means of keeping them stationary, than a 
source of nutriment. Eock-roses bear that name, because 
they will only flourish in dry, rocky places, where other 
plants would never find a due supply of moisture. These 
rocks they are industriously engaged in ornamenting with 
a profusion of brilliantly colored flowers, for nature loves 
to combine every where the beautiful with the useful. 
Still, their beauty is but short-lived ; their blossoms usually 
expand at night, and after a few hours' exposure to the 
sun, they perish. But their long evergreen branches trail, 
year after year, with great beauty, over the rough banks 
and rocky clifls that give them a shelter and a home. 

A Chat about Plants. 


The very sand of the sea, dry and drifting at the mercy 
of the waves, fickle and false to a proverb, is not too 
poor for a most useful plant, the so-calle(^ sand-recd. It 
has no beauty of form to please the eye, no delicacy of 
structure to engage our attention, the cattle themselves 
will not touch it. But when planted by the hand of man, 
to give firmness to dykes and embankments, it pierces 
them with an entangled web of living structure, which 
offers a resistance stronger than that of the gigantic walls 
of fabled Cyclops, and is but rarely overcome by the 
violence of the storm and the fury of the waves. The 
loose sand of South American deserts still harbors little 
cacti, so small, and so slightly rooted in their unstable 
home, that they get between the toes of the Indian — and 
even the fearful deserts of Africa, those huge seas of sand 
without a shadow, are at least surrounded by forest shores, 
clothed in perpetual verdure ; even in their midst a few 
solitary palm-trees, sighing in loneliness for the sweet rivu- 
lets of the oasis, are scattered over the awful solitude, 
and wherever a tiny thread of water passes half con- 
cealed through the endless waves of sand, a line of lux- 
uriant green, marks it to the exhausted traveller, and 
reminds him of the green pasture and still waters of 
Holy Writ. 

Nor are plants dwellers upon land only : the waters also 
teem with vegetable life, and the bed of the mighty ocean 
is planted with immense submarine forests and a thousand 
varied herbs, from the gigantic fucus, which grows to the 
length of many hundred feet, and far exceeds the height 
of the tallest tree known, to the little yellow blossom 

142 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

of the duck-weed on our ponds. Every river has its own 
reed ; some, covered with snow for a part of the year, 
hardly rise above the sluggish, silent waters of the Irtis 
in cold Siberia ; others form ever-murmuring forests of 
graceful bamboo on the banks of the Ganges. For the 
earth opposes every where to the encroaching tides of the 
ocean, another sea of restless vegetation, yielding con- 
stantly, and yet never giving way, with its green waves, 
so delicate, fragile, and airy, and yet as strong in their 
very weakness as the deep-blue waves of the ocean. Fur- 
ther out at sea, enormous sponges fill vast spaces of the 
watery realm, and, when mature, break loose from their 
safe anchorage, to float in countless myriads through the 
surrounding sea. For here, also, nature pours out, with 
a lavish hand, living food, storing even the waves with 
nutriment for their gigantic denizens, and literally casting 
bread upon the waters for the animate world of the ocean. 
In other zones, immense and permanent banks of verdure 
are met with, by far exceeding the largest prairies on land, 
true oceanic meadows. For twenty-three long days did 
Columbus sail through one of these marvels of western 
waters, covering an area like that of all France ; and yet 
there it is, even now, as large and as luxuriant as it was 
more than three centuries ago. 

Truly, man is not alone a cosmopolite. Plants precede 
him as they follow his footsteps, wherever restless ambi- 
tion may lead him. Their domain is the whole earth. 
They are not driven away by the cold of the Arctic; they 
endure the fiery heat of the volcano. 

Trees and shrubs gather around the desolate North Cape 

A Chat about Plants. 


in spite of eternal winter, and relentless storms. Ice-clad 
Spitzbergen even boasts still of a willow, the giant of these 
Arctic forests, the woody stems of which, it is true, creep 
so close to the ground, and conceal themselves so anxiously 
in the turf bogs, that the small leaves, never rising more 
than an inch or two, are hardly discoverable amid the 
thick moss. The plains bordering on the Icy Sea are fall 
of cryptogamous plants, and show even, here and there, 
patches of green turf, a most gladsome sight to the weary 
traveller. The swampy districts, also, which there extend 
further than eye can reach, are covered with a closely woven 
carpet of mosses, minute in size, and yet so abundant, 
that they support immense herds of reindeer for a whole, 
dreary season. Even the perpetual snow of the polar 
regions is often adorned with beautiful forests of diminu- 
tive plants, and extensive fields of bright scarlet are seen, 
consisting of myriads of minute fungi and microscopic 
mushrooms, which form the so-called "gory dew," beheld 
by early navigators with a wonder nearly akin to awe. 
Captain Eichardson found the ground near the Arctic circle, 
though it remains frozen throughout the whole year to 
a depth of twenty inches, covered with bright flowering 
plants; and the great Humboldt saw at a height of more 
than eighteen thousand feet, on the uncovered rocks of the 
Chimborazo, traces of vegetation piercing through the eter- 
nal snow of those inhospitable regions. So far from ice 
and snow being hostile to plants, it has been observed that 
some of the most beautiful flowers on earth grow in the 
very highest and bleakest parts of the Alps. There the 
snow has hardly melted, and lies still close at hand, when 

144 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

these Alpine roses unfold their brilliant flowers, with a 
haste, as if they knew how costly were the moments of 
their short summer-time. They seem to devote their whole 
strength to the development of their flowers, and as their 
stems are but short and partially buried in the ground, 
their bright blossoms often appear to spring immediately 
from the unsightly drift and gravel, in which they live. 
Thus growing on the very edge of bare steep clifls, of 
vast dazzling snow fields, and dark-blue glaciers, are seen 
these graceful little plants, decked with a profusion of 
flowers of the purest and brightest colors. The tiny forget- 
me-not of the Alps blossoms by the side of huge boulders 
of rock, and sweet roses unfold their rich crowns at the 
foot of massive blocks of ice, exhibiting a beautiful pic- 
ture of loveliness mated with grandeur. 

The vegetable kingdom extends its colonies even into 
the bowels of the earth — the so-called subterranean flora 
is large and beautiful. Wherever rain or surface water 
can percolate, either through natural cavities or openings 
made by the hand of man, there plants will appear, and 
busily hide the nakedness of the rock. Far below the 
soil on which we tread, plants thrive and adorn our globe. 
When the miner first opens his shaft, or the curious 
traveller discovers a new cave — everywhere they find the 
rough rock and the snow-white stalactite covered with a 
delicate, graceful network of an usnea, or, as in the coal 
mines near Dresden, a luminous fungus shines brightly, 
and turns these regions of darlaiess into the semblance 
of a begemmed and illuminated enchanter's palace. The 
narrow, deep crevices of the glaciers, have a vegetation 

A Chat about Plants. 


of their own, and even in the thick-ribbed ice of the 
Antarctic seas, marine plants have been found floating. 

Heat deters plants as little as cold ; the fiery furnace 
of volcanoes is tapestried with confervas, and hot springs, 
whose breath is certain destruction to animal life, water 
the roots of plants, which bear beautiful blossoms. There 
are springs in Louisiana whose temperature is 145"^ F., 
and yet not only mosses, but shrubs and trees are seen 
to bathe their roots in their boiling waters. In the Fu- 
marole, on the fairy island of Ischia, near Naples, a sedge 
and a fern grow in the midst of ascending vapors, and 
in a soil so hot that it instantly burns the hand wdiich 
attempts to touch their roots ! Nay, in the very geysers 
of Iceland, which boil an egg in a few minutes, a small 
plant grows, blossoms, and reproduces itself annually. 

If land and water abound thus with vegetable life, the 
realms of the air are not less well peopled, at least with 
germs and seeds of plants ; they float upon every breeze, 
are wafted up and down the heavens, and round and about 
our great mother earth. Nothing is more startling, more 
wonderful, than the almost omnipresence of fungus germs 
in the atmosphere. A morsel of ripe fruit left exposed to 
the air, affords at once ample evidence of this teeming, 
living world around us. In a very short time, a delicate, 
velvet-like covering envelopes the decomposing mass, and 
presently acquires the utmost luxuriance of growth. And 
a wonderful race are these fungi, the earth's vegetable 
scavengers ; called upon by the mysterious distribution of 
duties in nature, to destroy all decaying matter, and to 
absorb noisome exhalations, they grow with a rapidity that 

146 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

outstrips decay itself. A very common kind of puff-ball 
swells, in one night, from a minute speck to the size of 
a gourd, and there is a fungus found on the continent of 
Europe, which has been known to increase from a point 
invisible to the naked eye, to a weight of more than a 
hundred pounds ! Or take the simple mould of every 
day's life. Arm your eye, and you will behold myriads 
of delicate forms, standing up in jaunty attitudes, and 
rearing their tender filaments over the decaying mass, in 
which they are living in luxurious plenty. They lengthen, 
they swell, they burst, and again scatter their light and 
invisible germs, like a cloud of smoke, into the air. There 
they float around us, like motes in the sunbeam ; there 
we breathe them, for they have been found in the air- 
cells of birds, and even upon the membranes of the lungs 
of living men. Our common house-fly may be seen in 
fall, glued by cold and inertion to the window-pane, and 
at once covered with its own appropriate mould ; in the 
West Indies, wasps have been observed flying about with 
plants of their own length hanging down from behind their 
heads. It is a fungus, the germs of which were introduced 
through the breathing pores into the body of the poor 
victim, where they take root, and feeding upon the living 
substance, develope their luxuriant vegetation. 

If we see thus vegetable life on land and on sea, amid 
snow and ice, as well as on the burning lava, we might 
well question, whether in this astounding variety of form 
and home, there can be any law or permanent rule. And 
yet we find here, also, the handwriting of the Almighty, in 
clear and indelible characters on every page of the great 

A Chat about Plants. 


book of Nature. every kind of soil has its own 
peculiar plants ; some prosper only on limestone, others 
on granite, and a few are, as Evelyn quaintly says, " faith- 
ful lovers of watery and boggie places." But the dis- 
tribution of plants shows itself mainly, when viewed in 
larger masses and groups. As winter is cold and silent, 
but summer all radiant with forms of life and beauty, 
so differ Pole and Equator. Near the former vegetable 
life is nearly impossible ; around the other we behold the 
grandest display of nature's most gorgeous gifts. The 
glorious tapestry of the earth, we are told by a master of 
the science, is not w^oven alike every where, nor is the 
rich and variegated carpet, with which plants cover the 
nakedness of the rock, pieced together, without plan or 
rule, of separate patches. It is, rather, like an embroider- 
ing of skilful hands, worked from a grand and beautiful 

For heat and moisture are the two great requisites of 
plants : without them no vegetation is possible — heat, espe- 
cially, is of all their necessaries of life the most important : 
it is the iron sceptre which rules the vegetable kingdom, 
whether the plant hang in the air, be half buried in the 
ground, or for its lifetime covered with w^ater. The same 
degree of heat produces every where the same union of 
kindred plants ; hence the arrangement of all vegetables 
according to zones on our globe. The Arctic, nearest to 
the poles, where lichens still support the reindeer, and 
cheerful mosses cover the bare rock, is destitute of trees — 
but it has dwarfish perennial plants, with large flowers, 
often of beautiful colors; it has its gentle smiling meadows 

148 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

and green pastures, which we miss so sadly in the sunny 
South. More varied, and of higher order, is the flora of 
the temperate zone, though not approaching in luxurious 
abundance and gorgeous brilliancy the splendor of the 
torrid zone. But what can compensate for the periodical, 
anxiously awaited, reawakening of nature, at the first breath 
of the mild air of spring"? What is more beautiful than 
the fresh evergreen foliage of firs and cypresses, so rare 
in the tropics, which cheer up the desolate winter land- 
scape, and loudly tell the nations of the north, that, 
though snow and ice cover the earth, the inward life of 
plants is never extinguished, and that spring will come 
after winter as surely as eternity comes after death 1 The 
great leading features of the temperate zone are its vast 
plains and steppes, which the eye of man cannot compass, 
and where he feels himself, as on the high sea, face to 
face with his Maker. These large prairies, or savannahs, 
are covered with luxuriant, waving grass, expressive of all 
that is cheerful in their airy grace and tremulous lightness. 
In other regions, strange, fantastic-looking soda plants, sue 
culent and evergreen, strike the eye and dazzle it with 
their brilliant, snow-white crystals — or, as on Russian 
steppes, plants of all kinds are so densely crowded on 
the unmeasured plain, that the wheels of the traveller's 
carriage can but with difliculty crush them, and he him- 
self is half buried in the close, high forest of grasses, too 
tall to allow him to look around. 

In the torrid zone all vegetable life attains the highest 
development, from the exclusive and constant union of a 
high temperature with abundant moisture. Here we find 

A CtiAT ABOUT Plants. 


the greatest size combined with the greatest variety, the 
most graceful proportions by the side of the most gro- 
tesque forms, decked with every possible combination of 
brilliant coloring. Here also — and here alone — are found 
truly primeval forests, impenetrable to man and beast, 
from the luxuriance of thickly interwoven creepers above 
and the density of a ligneous undergrowth, through which 
not a ray of light can penetrate. 

As the distribution of plants in zones depends almost 
exclusively on the amount of heat which they require for 
their development, we fmd that the succession of plants 
from the foot of mountains upwards to their summit, is 
nearly the same as that from the middle latitudes to the 
poles. For heat decreases in the same proportion by 
height above the level of the sea as by latitude ; and 
the horizontal zones on a mountain's side present the same 
variety of plants, as the great zones mentioned, only in 
a much smaller space, as we feel the temperature of the 
atmosphere diminish more rapidly in ascending a lofty 
mountain, than in travelling from the tropics to the poles. 
Hence the same peculiar plants are found in the arctic 
zone, and on the highest mountains which reach the line 
of perpetual snow; the same humble but beautiful flowers 
blossom in Spitzbergen, or on the icy shores of Victoria 
Land, and on the desolate clifls of the Andes, the Alps 
and the snow-covered heights of the Himalaya. Even un- 
der the tropics, the evergreens of the north appear again: 
the most elevated regions of Peru, and the lofty plains 
of Asiatic mountains are covered with superb forests of 
that noble tree of which the poet says : 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

"Where summer smiles with verdure crown'd, 
Where winter flings his storms, the pine is found; 
"With heaven aspiring head it grows 
'Mid burning sun— and everlasting snows." 

On the highlands of Mexico, and the mountains of Java, 
the traveller from the cold north meets with surprise the 
chestnut and the noble oak of his own distant home. It 
is one of the most interesting enjoyments offered to the 
layman as well as to the botanist, thus to pass from zone 
to zone in the course of a few hours or days at most. 
Rising, for instance, from the blue waters of the Medi- 
terranean, his eye dwells at first with wondering delight 
on perfumed orange gardens and dusky olive-trees, " fair 
and of goodly fruit ;" he passes through thickets of fragrant 
myrtle, laurel, and evergreen oaks, above which tower the 
stone-pines of the south, and here and there an isolated 
date-palm, lifting up its gently-waving crown. A few steps 
further, and the aspect changes ; he has left the evergreens 
of the warmer climate behind him, and stepping out of 
the glowing, fiery sunshine, he delights in the cool, re- 
freshing gloom of the wide branches of lofty chestnuts and 
proud oaks, the very kings of the forest. Eevived by 
their luxuriant foliage, "at dewy eve distilling odors," he 
gazes upwards, where their branches interlace and form 
grand cathedral aisles, and bows down in awe and rever- 
ence in this fit temple of the Most High. As he ascends 
he meets yet with the maple, spreading out its broad 
dome of dark green leaves in masses so thick, that be- 
neath it he fears not the passing shower, and the beech, 
which shows its dappled bark and bright green foliage. 

A Chat about Plants. 


The silvery trunk of some white birch, with " boughs so 
pendulous and fair" — begins already to gleam among the 
underwood, when he leaves behind him the aspen with its 
ever-quivering leaves, which almost shed a sense of breezy 
coolness through the sultry day. 

His next step leads him into the dark woods of truly 
northern trees : pines, firs, and larches. Their dense shade 
fills his soul with sombre thoughts ; the gentle murmuring 
of their boughs sounds to his ear like low complaint, and 
even the sweet aroma that perfumes the air, brings with 
it — ^he knows not why — feelings of vague pain and sorrow. 
He gazes up with amazement at the tallest of the tall, 
worthy to be 

" Hewn ou Norwegian hills, to be the mast of some tall admiral," 

and sees in its heaven-aspiring branches and ever-joyous 
verdure, tlie true symbol of his own glorious immortality. 
Now, as he mounts still higher, trees grow fewer and 
fewer ; low bushes stand scattered about, forlorn outposts 
of their happier brethren below ; they also soon venture 
no higher, and low but fragrant herbs alone remain to 
greet his eye and cheer him on his way upward. At 
last he reaches the eternal snow, that knows no season 
and no change, and stands in unsullied purity, dazzling 
w^hite, high in the clear blue ether. All traces of life are 
left behind — he stands there alone in the awful, silent soli- 
tude, alone in the presence of his Maker. Thus he has 
seen in rapid succession, and in a few short hours, what 
it would have cost him months to behold, had he travel- 

152 Leaves fkom the Book of Nature. 

led from the same Mediterranean northward to the frozen 

Still more striking is the sudden change in high northern 
regions, as in crossing the lofty, snow-capped mountains 
which divide Sweden and Norway. On the south you 
leave summer behind; as you climb up the steep ascent, 
misty autumn and cold winter seize you by turns. At 
last you stand on the very line tiiat forms the water-shed 
between the two kingdoms, and parls the loving sisters. 
Huge boulders of dark granite lie .cattered about in wild 
disorder, and gigantic blocks of ice rise in stern majesty 
before you. Beyond is Norway. As you turn round one 
of these awe-inspiring masses, behold ! a sight meets your 
eyes that freezes the very blood in your veins. A vast 
table land, bare and silent, spreads its horrors before you : 
it is strewn with the bones of hundreds of men, who lay 
there stiff and cold — not a feature marred — death had put 
on so slumber like a form" — ^but unburied, uncoffined and 
unknown. They are the sad relics of a whole regiment 
of brave, blooming sons of Sweden, who had marched into 
Norway. It was a fierce, bleak day of winter, and as com- 
pany after company defiled from the well-protected south 
around the very rock, by which you stand, the cold blast 
from the pole froze their breath within them, and laid 
them, one by one, lifeless on the cold ground. 

And yet, within a few hours' ride from this most melan- 
choly scene, there lie spring and summer at your feet. 
You descend, from the eternal snow, through the treeless 
zones into the faint, fairy sheen of white birch woods, and 
the dark shade of pine-forests, brightened up by the showy 

A Chat about Plants. 


blossoms of the foxglove — when all of a sudden the sweet 
odor of fresh-mown hay is wafted upward to greet you. 
A short hour more, and the almost magical change brings 
you into the midst of waving fields of ripened corn, and 
meadows adorned by cherry-trees, which bend under the 
weight of their luscious fruit, and luxuriantly-blooming 



Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

|ouuger fmo of a f laiit. 

"Herbs too she knew, and well of each could speak, 
That in her garden sipped the silv'ry dew." 

Shenstone's " School-Mistress.''^ 

'E all know — thanks to the word of inspiration in our 

hands — how plants were first made. On the third 
day, when God made heaven and earth, He said : Let the 
earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed and the 
fruit-tree after his kind ! and the earth did bring forth 
grass and herbs, the tree yielding fruit, and God saw that 
it was good. 

Thus plants and flowers were the earth's first-born pro- 
geny; they sprang out of her bosom and crowned her 
with verdure and beauty. The plains covered themselves 
with waving grasses, and the mountains with majestic for- 
ests ; the silvery willow and the lofty poplar bent over the 
banks of rivers, and repeated in their trembling, murmur- 
ing leaves, the gentle ripple and the low purling of the 
stream. The ocean, also, had its woods and its prairies 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


in the depth of its abysses; purple algae were suspended 
ill festoons from the sides of its rocks, and gigantic facus 
rose from the bottom of the sea and danced upon the dark 
green waves. Cedars and pines, with their sombre pyra- 
mids, formed dark borders around the white fields of 
eternal snow and dazzling glaciers. Humble mosses and 
lowly lichens covered the gray granite of the north, and 
offered, in the midst of unbroken winter, warmth and food 
to the reindeer of the Laplander, whilst the palm tree of 
the south, in its lofty majesty, defied the burning sun of 
the tropics, and gave shade and luscious fruit in abun- 

So much Revelation itself has told us. The rest is left 
to that innate thirst of knowledge, the gratification of 
which is the highest of all earthly enjoyments. Still, we 
are not quite left to ourselves, for aid is promised us, 
even now, from on high. " Go into a field of flowers," 
said the Lord to Ezra, " where no house is built, and there 
1 will come and talk with thee."" And who has not felt 
the truth of good old Cowley's quaiijt verse: 

"If we could open and intend our eye, 
We all, like Moses, would espy 
E'en in a bush the radiant Deity." 

Thus, even now, travellers tell us occasionally, a won- 
drous tale of barren islands being covered with luxuriant 
forests, and of naked rocks being clothed w^ith rich ver- 
dure. We have learned how nature proceeds, even in our 
day, to let the grass grow, and the herb and the tree 
yielding fruit, on spots where before all was sterility, or 
the elements alone reigned supremely. 

156 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

For every now and then we hear of some new land, 
fresh from the hands of the Creator, and destined for ages 
so distant that human knowledge cannot foresee them. 
Lava streams that have flown from restless craters, begin 
at last to cool, and life takes possession of them. Thus 
in the still hot lava of Mount Etna the Indian fig is 
planted largely by the Sicilians, to render those desolate 
regions capable of cultivation. It strikes its strong, well- 
armed roots into the fissures of the black, fiery mass, and 
soon extends them into every crevice of the rock. Slowly, 
but with ever increasing force, the tender fragile fibre 
then bursts the large blocks asunder, and finally covers 
them with fertile soil and a luxuriant vegetation. At 
other times vast tracts of sea-bottom are dyked in and 
drained; a thousand varieties of mosses gradually fill it 
up, and form by their unceasing labor a rich vegetable 
mould for plants of larger grow^th. Or truly new lands 
are suddenly seen to claim a place upon our globe. An 
earthquake shakes a continent and upheaves the mighty 
ocean, until cities crumble into ruins and the proud ships 
of man are ingulfed in the bottomless depths of the sea. 
But the earthquake rolls away, the storm rages itself to 
rest, the angry billows subside, and the holy calm, which 
is the habitual mood of nature, is restored as if it had 
never been broken. Only, where yesterday the ocean's 
mighty swell passed freely, there to-day an island has 
risen from the bosom of the deep. Vast rocky masses 
suddenly raise their bare heads above the boiling waters 
and greet the heavens above. Such was the origin of 
Stromboli; of St, Helena, and of Tristan d'Acunha. Or 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


the busy host of corals, after having built for a thousand 
years the high ramparts of their marvellous rings, at last 
rise to a level with the surface; they die, having done 
their duty in the great household of nature, and bequeath 
to man a low, flat, circular island which now first beholds 
the sweet light of day, above the dark waves of the 
ocean. Then come other hosts of busy servants of the 
Almighty, to do their duty. A soft, silky network of 
gay, bright colors, hides after a few days the nakedness 
of the rock. It is a moss of the simplest kind we know : 
consisting of single cells and wondrously short-lived. It 
dies and disappears, leaving, apparently, no perceptible 
trace behind it ; still, it has not lived and labored in 
vain. A delicate, faint tinge, little more, is left behind, 
and in that mere shadow of things gone by lies the germ 
of a future, mighty growth. Years pass, and the shadow 
grows darker ; the spots begin to run together, and then 
follow countless hosts of lichens, a kind of humble mosses, 
which the great and pious Linnaeus touchingly called the 
bondslaves of Nature, because they are chained to the rock 
on which they grow, and, after death are buried in the 
soil which they make and improve for others only. Little 
ugly, blackish-brown or pale white plants as they are, 
but niggardly supported by the thin air of mountain tops, 
they show us that there are rich garments and humble, 
wealth and poverty among plants as well as among men. 
The lowliest and humblest of plants, these lichens become, 
however, the most useful servants of Nature, which here 
as in the other works of the Almighty, affords innumer- 
able proofs that, throughout creation, the grandest and 


Leaves frcm the Book of Nature. 

most complicated ends are obtained by the employment 
of the simplest means. These tiny, faintly colored cups 
live, truly aerial plants, on the most stei'ile rock, without 
a particle of mould or soil beneath them, nourished alone 
by invisible moisture in the atmosphere. Modestly choos- 
ing the most exposed situations, they spread line by line, 
inch by inch, and push up the little urns which crown their 
short stems, amidst rain, frost, and snow. In these urns 
they treasure up their minute, dustlike seeds, until they 
ripen ; a small lid which has until then been held back by 
elastic threads, now suddenly rises, and as from a minia- 
ture mortar they shoot forth little yellow balls, w^hich 
cover the ground around them. And thus they work on, 
quiet, unobserved and unthanked. Dressed in the plainest 
garb of Nature, growing more slowly than any other plant 
on earth, they work unceasingly until, as their last and 
greatest sacrifice, they have to dig their own graves ! Tor 
Providence has given them a powerful oxalic acid, which 
eats its way slowly into the rock; w^ater and other mois- 
ture is caught in the minute indentations, there it is heated 
and frozen, until it rends the crumbling stone into frag- 
ments, and thus aids in forming a soil. Centuries often 
pass, and generations after generations of these humble 
bondslaves perform their cruel duty, before the eye can 
see a change in the rock that still looks bleak and barren. 

Now, however, comes a feint but clear tinge of green. 
It is a mere film still, but visible to the naked eye, and 
showing the higher and more luxuriant forms of graceful 
mosses, mixed with fungi which interpose their tiny globes 
and miniature umbrellas. They come, we know not whence, 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


for the slightest crevice in the bare rock suffices to arrest 
some of the invisible germs which are constantly floating 
in the air, and affords them a home. They yield nothing 
in industry and perseverance to their humble predeces- 
sors ; hardy little laborers in the same great work, they 
seem to delight in the clouds and storms of a wintry 
season, when all other verdure fades. They find a home, 
and live and thrive with equal contentment in the burning 
cinders of volcanic islands, like Ascension, on which they 
formed the first green crust after it had risen from the 
ocean, and on the tempest-beaten boulders of Norwegian 
granite, which they cover with a scarlet coating, well known 
as the violet stone and full of rich, sweet perfume. As 
they wither and die, minute layers of soil are formed, 
one after another, until grasses and herbs can find a foot- 
hold: shrubs with their hardy roots now begin to inter- 
lace the loose fragments of earth and to bind the very 
stones to a more permanent structure. The ground grows 
richer and richer, until at last the tree springs from the 
soil, and, where once the ocean and the tempest alone 
beat on the bare rock, there we see now the lordly monarch 
of the forest raise its lofty cro^vn, and under its rich 
foliage shelter bird and beast from the spray and the 
storm. Soon all is fertile meadow, tangled thicket, and 
wide-spreading forest. Nor is this always and necessarily 
a slow, painful progress. The bold navigator Boussin- 
gault witnessed once, in the south of this continent, one 
of those stupendous earthquakes which seem to rend the 
very foundations of our globe. Mountains rose and plains 
were changed into lakes. Huge masses of porphyry were 

160 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

scattered over fertile fields and covered all vegetation, 
changing the bright prairie into a scene of utter desola- 
tion. Ten short years later the great captain was again 
on the same spot. But what a change! The bare wild 
masses were covered with a young luxuriant grove of 
locusts, and a thousand cattle were grazing on the hills. 

Thus we are taught how nature proceeds, in our day, 
from the green matter gathering on our ponds to the 
giant tree of the forest. But if we turn to the individual 
plant — how little do we as yet know of its simple struc- 
ture ! Who can solve the mystery that pervades its silent 
yet ever-active life 1 There is something in the very still- 
ness of that unknown power which awes and subdues us. 
Man may forcibly obstruct the path of a growing twig, 
but it turns quietly aside and moves patiently, irresistibly 
on, in its appointed way. Wood and iron — even powerful 
steam — they all obey him and become the humble slaves 
of his intellect. But the life of the lowest of plants defies 
him. He may extinguish it to be sure ; but to make 
use of a living plant, he must obey it, study its wants 
and tendencies, and mould, in fact, his own proud will 
to the humblest grass that grows at his feet. Thus we 
have learned the biography of plants, few events of which 
are without interest even to the general observer. 

On old walls and damp palings, or in glasses in which 
we have left soft water standing for several days in sum- 
mer, we find often a delicate, bright green and almost 
velvety coat — this is the first beginning of all vegetation. 
What we see is a number of small round cells, and one 
of these delicate cells, a little globe as large as the 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


thousandth part of an inch, is the beginning of every plant 
in creation. These cells are the living stones of which 
this great temple of nature is built. Each minute cell, 
moreover, is an independent plant, vegetating as a living 
organism and having a life of its own. There are whole 
races of plants, like the algae and the common mould 
forming on decaying matter, which consist each only of 
a single cell, although in varied and often most elegant 
forms, with a brilliant display of bright color. 

The first germ of a plant, then, has already a life — 
for it feeds, works and produces. It takes all its nutri- 
ment from without. How, we know not, for although 
plants have no table hanging at their gates with a surly 
No Admittance ; although they work, on the contrary, 
before every body's eyes, unfortunately human eyes are 
not strong enough to discern the mysterious process that 
is going on in their minute chambers. Even armed with 
the most powerful microscope, we cannot penetrate the 
mystery, and know not yet by what incomprehensible in- 
stinct these diminutive cells, all unaided, pick up and select 
their food, and arrange the new material so as to present 
us at last with a perfect double of the graceful palm, the 
queenly Victoria or the gigantic Baobab. It heightens the 
wonder that all this power lies in a seed minute enough 
to be invisible to the naked eye, and to be wafted about 
by a breath of air. And yet it must be endowed with 
most subtle and varied gifts, for out of the same food 
plants are enabled to form a thousand rare substances : 
now bringing forth nutritious and agreeable food for man, 
now yielding materials most valuable to the arts of life, 

162 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

and now ministering to the vilest wants of degenerate 
man and arming him with deadly poison. 

But these little cells are not consumers only ; they live 
and work not for the day merely, but for the future also. 
An almost invisible point in the cell begins to swell and 
to increase, as it consumes first the colorless fluid, then 
the soft substance, and at last even the tissue of the outer 
walls of the cell, until — already at this early stage of 
vegetable life — death ensues, and out of death comes new 
life. The old cell dies, giving birth, indeed, as a mother, 
to other cells, and thus gradually building up the full- 
grown plant. The young ones leave their former home, 
after an equally mysterious design, according to the posi- 
tion they are hereafter to occupy in the structure of the 
plant, and the function they are destined to perform. 

Here is the great turning point in the history of veget- 
able life. All plants consist of cells of the same kind 
and of the same round or oblong form — but the arrange- 
ment and the subsequent shape of these cells differ in 
each variety of plants. The finger of the Almighty writes 
on the transparent walls of these microscopic cells as 
momentous words as those that appeared in flames on the 
gorgeous walls of the Syrian palace. Only one feature 
of this wonderful design is permanent and common to all : 
no cell produces more than two others ; of these only one 
is again productive, it fuids a place on the outside, where 
its activity is unfettered, and dies after it has performed 
its duty. The other remains within, grows harder and 
thicker, until it can expand no longer ; the thickening sub- 
i?tance coats the inner walls, fills up the interior, and thus 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


gives strength and firmness to the beautiful structure. In 
some plants this development of new cells goes on slowly ; 
in others with truly marvellous rapidity, as in one of the 
fungi, which forms twenty thousand visible cells in a single 
rninute ! 

But the minute, delicate form would be but short-lived, 
and fall an easy prey to the first rude breath of air, if 
nature did not here also instil the great lesson, that Union 
is Strength. That wondrous chemical laboratory, contained 
in the mysterious seclusion of each cell, produces next a 
cement which permeates the walls, and glues cell to cell, 
so that, hardly developed, they cannot move from the 
spot, and, though provided w^ith life and strength for long 
generations, they are still, like Prometheus, bound for ever 
on the rock of adjoining cells. At the extremities of 
plants this glue hardens into a thick varnish; it is this 
material which gives density and mechanical strength to 
the so-called woody fibres ; it forms the bark of trees 
and covers the plum with a coating of wax. It appears 
as a viscid layer on the leaves of water plants, which 
are thus made slippery to the touch and impermeable to 
water, or as a blue powder on our cabbage, which can 
be wholly immersed without being wetted. Only here 
and there, but even in the hardest and fullest cells, tubes 
of a spiral form are left open. Some are mere small jail 
windows, imperceptible to the naked eye, and only lately 
discovered; but they always meet, in unfailing regularity, 
with a similar tiny look-out from the neighbor, so that 
Nature evidently does not seem to approve of solitary con- 
finement. Others are larger, and serve as air passages; 

164 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

for Nature, a good architect, knows the necessity of ventila 
tion, and provides for it in the humblest of lowly mosses 
with as much care as in the lofty dome of the universe. 
In aquatic plants, moreover, these same tubes render them 
buoyant, as in one of the huge fucus that grow from the 
bottom of the ocean. All along the immense stem, which 
reaches from the vast deep up to the light of day, little 
vessels occur, filled with air, and it is by these tiny bal- 
loons, thus continued from story to story, that the enor- 
mous leaves of the giant plant are buoyed up, and finally 
enabled to float on the surface, covering the waves with 
an immense carpet of verdure. And thus, with unerring 
regularity, which, in an almost endless variety of forms, 
still maintains those great laws of Nature that betoken 
the will of the Most High, these same cells have been 
formed, not only in the parent plant for its next successor, 
but during thousands of generations; and that on all parts 
of the earth, in the same way, the same shape ! Well 
may we, then, with a distinguished German botanist, look 
upon the vegetable world as the rich altar-cloth in the 
temple of God where we worship the beautiful and the 
sublime, because it is His handiwork. 

Plants live^ then, and feed. Little do we commonly 
think, little do we therefore know of the way in which 
they live and feed. We see animals take their food openlj 
and grossly, in the most conspicuous and eminent part of 
their body, they tear and swallow, ruminate or masticate. 
We ourselves do something in that line. But delicate 
plants hide the coarse process of nutrition under ground, 
or within the close walls of each tiny cell. There, wdth 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


wondrous art, and never resting day or night, summer or 
winter, they draw a few simple elements, mainly water, 
from air and soil, and, by their own power and labor, 
live upon them not only, but manage to obtain all the 
material necessary for an almost unlimited growth, until 
the smallest seed has upreared gigantic masses of wood 
and foliage, and the grain of mustard has grown into a 
tree, in whose branches the fowls of heaven have their 
habitation. Each little microscopic cell is its own busy 
chemist, dissolving all it needs, even small particles of 
silica, in water, and changing it into food and new sub- 
stances. Tlie material we know, and the fact that it is 
introduced — but then we stand again at the threshold of 
that mystery with which Nature surrounds all first begin- 
nings. The night of the cell, where this strange process 
is going on, is the same as that in which the grain has 
to be buried, in order to rise once more to light as a 
tender blade. We are again taught that the knowledge 
of first causes belongs to Him alone, who allows the eye 
of man to see final causes only, and even those, as yet, 
merely through a glass, dimly. 

The general process of feeding, in a plant, as far as 
known, is simply this: The universal and indispensable 
nutrient substance, and, at the same time, that by means 
of which all the rest are conveyed into it, is water. 
Without water there is no vegetation. The deserts of 
Arabia, the w^est coast of Bolivia, and similar regions, are 
barren, not because they are rocky and sandy, but because 
it only rains there once in twelve years, and that not 
always, and they have neither dew nor watery deposits. 

166 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

This water, with all the materials it may contain, is sucked 
up by the delicate fibres at the end of roots ; thence it 
rises, probably by capillary attraction, upwards, transuding 
through the cells by apertures invisible to the highest 
microscopic power, and filling cell afi;er cell. Here it 
mingles with the fluid which they already contain, pro- 
duces new combinations, and is then called sap. Hence 
these little cells, when searched with the microscope, are 
found to be filled with an almost incredible variety of 
good things. Some, it is true, contain apparently nothing 
but a watery juice, but its virtues may yet be disco- 
vered ; others are little vials filled with gum or sugar ; 
in many plants they are found to hold just one drop of 
oil, and in others sugar, or to inclose beautiful crystals 
of every possible shape. Through these cells the sap as- 
cends, until it reaches the main workshop of plants — the 
leaves. These bring it in contact with the air, which they 
in their turn suck in by minute openings and exhale again, 
after it has combined with parts of the ascended water. 
It is this continued exhalation of the leaves, and absorp- 
tion by the roots, which constitutes the circulation, the 
Life of Plants. They produce a constant interchange be- 
tween soil and air, and stand in direct proportion to each 
other. Tor the sap rises with a rapidity corresponding 
to the exhalation of the leaves. Hence, in winter, when 
there are no leaves, there is no sap ascending. Hence, 
also, in spring the earth sometimes opens sooner than the 
leaves appear ; the sap ascends, finds no outlet, and gorges 
the tree with fluid. Man comes to its aid, taps the drop- 
sical plant, and draws from the maple its sugar and from 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


the palm its sweet wine. That part of the sap which 
is not absorbed in its way upward, and not given out 
to the air through the leaves, returns again on its mys- 
terious errand, depositing here and there the material most 
needed, and hoarding up, at intervals, large quantities that 
are not immediately required for future wants. Such 
provisions, carefully stowed away, are found in the potato, 
which is little else than a magazine of nutritive matter, 
or in the sage of palm trees and the caoutchouc of South 
America. Lastly, that part of the material imbibed, which 
is useless or might be injurious — for plants, like animals, 
may be poisoned — is thrown out again at night in the 
form of manna or resin ; and thus secures the plant from 
all dangers. 

All these features in the life of plants, however, are 
visible to the microscope only. What we see with the 
unarmed eye, is not less wonderful. The tiny seed once 
intrusted to the bosom of mother earth, as soon as the 
sunlight falls upon it, and genial beams warm the light 
crust under which it is buried, begins to move and to 
change. Its starch is converted into sugar and gum, upon 
which the young plant is to feed during the first days of 
its existence. The tiny root peeps forth from the husk, 
and by a mysteriously directed power, plunges downward 
into the fertile soil, whilst the slender plumule pushes 
upwards towards the light. The soil cracks and heaves, 
and at last the infant vegetable being emerges fresh and 
moist into the world of air and sunshine ; with the un- 
folding of its first pair of leaves, and with the first light- 
ing of a sunbeam on their tender tissues, commences that 

168 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

series of incessant and as yet secret chemical operations, 
to which we have before alluded. And the marvel is still 
increased, when we consider how strangely alilie thousands 
of seeds are one to another, how slight the difference even 
between the most unlike. And yet, two such tiny seeds, 
planted in the same soil and living apparently on the 
same food, produce the one an humble herb, the other 
a mighty tree. Well may we ask, w^hat wondrous forma- 
tive power resides there in these little cells, tending ex- 
actly in one direction, as though an ideal figure, gradually 
to be realized, floated already before their infant eyes ? 

The first business, then, of the young plant seems to 
be, to settle firmly down in the home which is to see 
it grow, prosper and die. It sends its roots down into 
the ground, in a hundred various forms. Sometimes they 
are divided into a number of slender threads, to pene- 
trate into loose, sandy soil, as in the grasses, that bind 
the arid sands of the sea-coast together with their long, 
articulated roots, and thus protect the dykes of - Holland 
against the fury of the ocean. Others are in the form 
of a single, straight and powerful taproot, to pierce firm, 
solid ground — or even in long flat scales, which adhere 
and fasten themselves to bare rocks. Tender, delicate 
fibres though they be, these roots possess an incredible 
power. Even in the slim, slender grass they are so firmly 
interlaced w^ith the soil, that they cannot be torn out 
without a large mass of earth, and therefore compel us 
to cut or saw off the straw of our grain. With large 
trees they serve as gigantic anchors, chaining the mighty 
monarch to the earth by their powerful and wide-spreading 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


arms, and firmly supporting it thus against the immense 
mechanical force of wind which beats above against the 
large surface presented by its huge branches, covered with 
dense foliage. In their downward progress they turn aside 
from no obstacle. The roots of the colossal chestnut-tree 
on Mount Etna, under whose deep shade a hundred horse- 
men have easily found shelter, penetrate through rock and 
lava to the springs at the very foot of the mountain. 
Massive blocks are lifted up by roots as if with irre- 
sistible force. The beautiful trees that flourish amid the 
ruined temples of Central America, upheave huge frag- 
ments of those enormous structures high into the air, and 
hold them there as if in derision. In fact, the latent en- 
ergy and slowly accumulated force of these slender fibres 
in the process of forcing their way through walls and 
rocks of vast size, is only equalled by the grace of their 
movement and form; and this union of power and beauty, 
the one latent, the other obvious, explains, in part at least, 
the singular charm that the vegetable world exercises over 
JO many strong but susceptible minds. 

But roots serve not only as fastenings : they are, as 
has already been mentioned, the principal avenues for the 
introduction of food into the plant. They operate by 
means of most delicate fibres at the end, called spongi(5les, 
endowed with so minute openings, that all nutriment to 
be taken in must be liquid. Nor is it the least of the 
mysteries of plant life, that these fine, slender roots do 
not absorb all that is presented to them in a liquid form, 
but evidently have a power of discrimination. They open 
or close their minute apertures at will, admitting only 

170 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

fluids of a certain consistency, and thus select those sub- 
stances which are best adapted to the growth and welfare 
of the plant. The finer, suitable material is taken in, 
the coarser rejected. Repeated, careful experiments have 
proved this beyond doubt. A grain of wheat and a pea, 
raised in the same soil, and under absolutely the same 
circumstances, draw entirely different substances from the 
earth. The wheat consumes all the silica or flinty matter, 
that water can absorb, while the pea takes up no flint, 
consuming, on the other hand, whatever lime or calcareous 
matter the water of the soil may contain. 

Thus the roots of a plant pump up nearly all the nu- 
triment that is required and at least ninety-nine per cent 
of all the water which the plant needs, the only other part 
needed being brought by the vapors of the atmosphere 
and absorbed through the humus. They perform this duty 
with a vigor little suspected by the inattentive ; but if 
we cut a vine and fasten a bladder to the wound at the 
time when the sap is rising, it will in a short time be 
filled and finally burst ; and it has been stated that the 
root of an elm-tree, which was by accident badly wounded, 
poured forth, in a few hours, several gallons of water. 

Not all roots, however, have to perform this difficult 
and responsible task of extracting food from the earth 
around them ; those of aquatic plants draw it directly 
from the water itself, as> in our common duckweed, where 
each little leaf has its own tiny root, a single fibre, which 
hangs from the lower surface. In the mangrove, on the 
contrary, they form a kind of enormous network in the 
water, which intercepts all solid matter, that floats down 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


rivers and estuaries, until the thus arrested and decoiri- 
posing substances form fever-breeding swamps. When the 
flood recedes the roots are left uncovered, and often found 
filled with shell-fish — a fact which explains the wonderful 
tales of early travellers in the tropics, that there were 
trees found in the East and West Indies on whose branches 
oysters were growing. 

Other roots have no home in earth or water ; they 
must even be content to hang, all their lifetime, high and 
dry in the air. Some, it is true, accomplish a firmer 
settlement, late in life, as those of the screwpine of the 
tropics, which grow not only at the foot of the tree, but 
for a considerable height from all parts of the trunk, to 
protect the plant against violent winds. From thence 
they hang down into the air and furnish us with a beautiful 
evidence of creative design in the structures of the vegeta- 
ble world. They are, namely, at this stage of their growth, 
provided with a kind of cup at each extremity, which 
catches every stray drop of rain and dew, and thus en- 
ables them both to grow themselves and to furnish nutri- 
ment to the parent plant. In the course of time, however, 
they reach the ground, and instantly these cups fall off, 
as the roots now need such extraordinary assistance no 
longer. Others spend their lives, literally, in building cas- 
tles in the air. Almost all the orchids of the Tropics 
use a tree, a block of wood, or a stone, merely as a 
support on which to settle down, and over which to spread 
their aerial roots. These, however, do not penetrate into 
the substance; the plants have no other source of nutri- 
ment than the vapor of the damp, heated atmosphere 

172 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

which constantly surrounds them, and from which alone 
they are supplied with food by those same roots, that thus 
serve the double purpose of claspers and feeders. Even 
law-defying squatters are found among the plants, as 
the mistletoe of sacred memory. It fastens upon some 
strong, healthy tree, and having no power of forming true 
roots for itself, it sends out branches which creep through 
crevices in the bark, into the wood, so that the roots of 
the parent stem must supply it with food, and the para- 
sitical plant lives, in truth, upon the very life's blood of 
the tree on which it has fastened itself. Even the stately 
palm is frequently seen in the murderous embrace of a 
plant, which is em'^^hatically called the parricide tree. It 
commences, like every thing vicious, with a small and rather 
pleasing growth on the trunk or among the branches, then 
rapidly extends its graceful tendrils in every direction, and 
increases in bulk and strength, until at last it winds its 
serpent folds in deadly embrace around the parent tree. 
The conflict lasts sometimes for years, but the parricide 
is sure to be victorious in the end, and to strangle the 
noble palm in its beautiful but deadly coils. The pros- 
perity of the parasite thus becomes an almost infallible 
sign of the decay of its victim, and a most affecting image 
of life crushed by a subtle, brute force. And yet it has 
its redeeming feature in the remarkable fact that these 
parasites never attack firs or evergreens, but only cover 
with their foliage those which winter deprives of their 
glory. The ivy, which often wraps the largest giants of 
the forest in its dark green mantle, thus appeared to older 
nations as the symbol of generous friendship, attaching 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


itself only to the unfortunate, and making its early pro- 
tector, even after death, the pride of the forests in which 
he lives no longer — when it gives him new life by cover- 
ing his lofty trunk and broad branches with festoons of 
eternal verdure. 

Still, wherever roots may be lodged, in the dark, still 
earth, or under the restless waves, in the damp air of the 
tropics, or the bark of a foreign tree — they labor without 
ceasing, night and day, summer and winter. For the life 
of plants, and the work of their roots, does not cease in 
winter as is commonly believed, and deep-rooted trees, 
especially, enjoy the benefit of the warmth which is laid 
up during summer, in the crust of the earth, and that at 
the very time when their branches groan under a load 
of snow, or stand encased with ice and fantastic glittering 
pendants. Far under ground the roots continue to work 
indefatigably, until the bright sunshine returns once more, 
and they feel that the fruit of their industry can again 
safely ascend through the dark, gloomy passages of the 
tree, to j^ass at last into the merry green leaves, and there 
to mingle with the balmy air of spring. For they are 
a hardy class of laborers, these roots, and neither cold 
nor ill treatment checks their activity. It is well known, 
that the common maple tree may be completely inverted ; 
its branches being buried under ground and its roots 
spread into the air, without being destroyed. The finest 
orange trees in Europe, in the superb collection at Dres- 
den, were brought as ballast, in the shape of mere blocks 
of timber, without roots or branches, in the hold of a 
Geraian vessel, and found their way to Saxony. Some 

174 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

curious gardener, anxious to know what plant furnished 
this new M^ood, planted them, but unfortunately niistook 
the upper end for the lower, and thus actually turned the 
poor, mutilated trees upside do\Yn. Yet, in spite of their 
early mutilation, the long sea voyage, and the subsequent 
cruel treatment, they have grown and flourished beyond 
all other orange trees on the continent. 

The next step in the life of a plant, after it has thus 
riveted itself firmly and for ever to its mother earth, is 
to send its stem or trunk upwards. In doing this, it is 
evidently influenced by a desire to approach the light of 
day. This has been proved by experiments as cruel as 
those that used to shock our sensibilities in the days of 
early anatomy. Seeds have been so placed, that the light 
reflected from a mirror should fall upon them from be- 
low, and lo ! the so-called natural direction of the growth 
of plants was completely changed ; the stem was sent 
down and the roots grew up ! When Nature, however, 
is allowed to have her o^vn way — which we humbly sur- 
mise to be the best — stems grow towards the light, to 
support the plant in its proper position and to raise it 
to the requisite height above ground, where it may enjoy 
air, light and heat. At a certain point, moreover, it spreads 
out into branches, as the best mode of presenting the 
largest surface, covered with leaves, to those necessaries 
of life. Plants are thus enabled to receive the fullest 
action of light and air, and the branches are, besides, so 
arranged that they yield readily to the fitful impulses of 
winds, and quickly return, by their elasticity, to their na 
tural position. 

Younger Years of a Plant. 175 

In similar beautiful adaptation to outward circumstances, 
^.ve find that the stem of the graceful palm-tree is high 
and slender, but built up of unusually tough, woody fibres, 
so that it sways gently to and fro in the breeze, and yet 
resists the fiercest storms, while the lofty bare trunk gives 
free passage to every breath of air, and the broad flat 
top tempers the burning sun and shades the fruit hanging 
down in rich clusters. The solemn and imposing fir tree, 
on the other hand, branches low, but just high enough to 
let man pass beneath, and then drops its branches at the 
extremities, like a roof, exposing, on terrace after terrace, 
its small fruit to all aspects of the sun, and, in winter, 
letting the heavy snow glide down on the smooth polished 
leaves. If the palm were a pyramid like the pine, it would 
fall before the first storm of the tropics ; if the pine were 
tall and shaped like a broad parasol, the snow and ice 
of the north would break it by their heavy weight. Yet, 
both the burning tropics and the arctic zone have their 
evergreens. At the south it is the towering peim that 
protects, with its gigantic leaves, all that lives against the 
fierce heat, and lets the ground be covered with green 
creepers and countless ferns, to keep it fresh and cool. 
At the north it is the dark pine, whose lofty, dense py- 
ramid and ample branches, covered with ghastly moss, 
protect, in like manner, the ground underneath, so that 
■reindeer and man may find their abundance of soft dry 
leaves and thick layers of downy rriosses. 

It is this part of the plant which gives it, in common 
^ife, its proper rank and name in the vegetable kingdom. 
When the stem is not woody and dies after the flowering 

176 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

season, wc speak of it as an herb, while a shrub has al- 
ready a greater size and a stem that branches at the base. 
The tree lifts its head high into the air, and divides mostly 
above. The stems of climbers and creepers are long, thin 
and winding, whilst runners crawl along on the ground or 
beneath it, and produce new plants at their termination. 

The stem has frequently a decided tendency to grow 
spirally; in creepers it is twisted from the root to the 
end, the better to enable them to lay hold of and to em- 
brace the objects around which they twine. So it is in 
all climbing plants and their tendrils, and they derive from 
this peculiar structure such strength, that they are found, 
in South America, to form long, slender, but perfectly 
safe bridges over broad rivers. Even large trees have 
frequently the same spiral tendency, as we see in many 
a blasted trunk in our forests, or when we attempt to 
remove the bark from a cherry tree, which will not tear 
straight and must be torn off in a spiral. 

In the stem, also, we see the main differences of the 
growth of various kinds of wood in a beautiful variety of 
grain and wavy lines. Its outside is protected by barJc^ 
sometimes smooth, as if polished ; in others, as in the 
pine, carved in huge square pieces ; hard and invulner- 
able as stone in the cypress, but cut and cracked in the 
elm. Most mountain trees have their bark deeply fur- 
rowed with numerous channels, to lead the moisture of 
rain and dew down to the rocky home of their deep 
buried roots. Dark colored and soft in tropic climes, to 
resist the heat, it is white as snow in the Arctic regions, 
and in northern trees, as birches and willows, in order 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


to reflect what little heat is found in such high latitudes. 
The bark is, moreover, the last part of a plant that de- 
cays, and in some trees may be called almost indestruc- 
tible. Thus Plutarch and Pliny both tell us, that when, 
four hundred years after the death of the great lawgiver 
Numa Pompilius, his grave was opened, the body of the 
king was a handful of dust, but the delicate bark, on 
which his laws had been written, was found uninjured by 
his side. 

Not all stems, however, are of the same firm, upright 
structure. Nature shows beauty not only in the forms 
themselves, but even more in their endless variety. In 
the cactus family stems are represented by what we com- 
monly, though erroneously, call their leaves, viz., fleshy 
expansions, tumid with watery juice, and clothed with a 
leathery cuticle, instead of bark. Of all cactuses, but one 
has real leaves : all others possess little more than mis^ 
erable substitutes in the form of tufts of hair, thorns and 
spines. These only, as far as they go, are their true 
leaves. The stems, it is well known, display in this same 
family an unusual variety of odd, outlandish-looking shapes. 
Now they rise, under the name of torch-thistle, in a single 
branchless column to the height of forty feet ; and now 
they spread their ghastly, fleshless arms in all directions, 
like gigantic funereal candelabras. The melon-cactus imi- 
tates, in shape and bristling spines, the hedgehog to per- 
fection, whilst the so-called mammillaria are smooth or 
ribbed globes of all sizes. Others, at last, grow lon- 
gitudinally, like the long whip-like serpent-cactus, which 
swings ominously from the trees on which it lives as a 

178 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

parasite. Nature, however, has made them ample compen- 
sation for their uncouth appearance and gloomy, wretched 
aspect, by giving them a profusion of flowers of unsur- 
passed brilliancy. 

The snake-like form of the last mentioned cactus is still 
more strikingly presented in the stem of the lianes of 
South America. They are almost entirely stem. Stretched 
out like the strong cordage of a vessel, on which tiger- 
cats run up and down with wonderful agility, or w^inding 
serpent-like in and out, now as cords and now like flat 
straps, they extend frequently more than a hundred feet, 
without leaves and without branches. Jn the primeval 
forests of the tropics they may be seen hanging from 
tree to tree, often ascending one, circling it until they 
choke his life's blood in him — then wantonly leaping over 
to another — next falling in graceful festoons, and then 
climbing up again to the topmost summit of a palm, 
where, at last, they wave perhaps their bunch of splendid 
flowers in the highest, purest air. Repulsive in them- 
selves, these lianes also grow beautiful by the contrast 
they present with the sturdy monarch of the forest, around 
which they twine, a contrast which yet, as every thing 
in nature, produces harmony. How different are these 
stems again from the beautiful structure of the various 
grasses ! Here a slender column rises, som-etiraes to the 
height of a few inches only, as in our common mountain 
grasses, and then, again, in the bamboo, to a towering 
height, waving their wide-spread tops in the evening breeze, 
or growing like the gigantic grasses on the banks of the 
Orinoco, to a height of more than thirty feet, where they 

Younger Years of a. Plant. 


liave joints that measure over eighteen feet from knot to 
knot, and serve the Indians of that country as blowpipes, 
with which they kill even large animals. And yet the 
delicate graceful tissue of all these grasses resists, by their 
wondrous structure, the storm that would break columns 
of granite, of the same height and thickness ! Nature 
knows full well that a slender hollow tube, with well 
strengthened walls, the most solid parts being placed out- 
side, is the best form in which to give firmness and 
solidity to such structures. Hence it is that their deli- 
cate walls are hardened by a copious deposition of silica, 
so that e. g. a kind of rattan has solid lumps of it in 
joints and hollows, and will readily strike fire with steel; 
and the so-called Dutch rush, a horsetail moss, is largely 
imported from Holland for its usefulness in polishing fur- 
niture and pewter utensils. The grass which grows on 
less than half an acre of land is said to contain flint 
enough to produce, when mixed with sand, and by the 
aid of the blowpipe, a glass-bead of considerable size ; 
and after a number of hay-stacks, set up by the river 
side, had once been struck by lightning and burned, large 
lumps of glass were found in their place. Wondrous in- 
deed are the works of the Almighty, and well can we 
understand the deep pathos with which Galileo, when 
questioned as to his belief in a Supreme Being, pointed 
at a straw on the floor of his dungeon and said: "From 
the structure of that little tube alone would I infer with 
certainty the existence of a wise Creator !" 

Other stems, like our bulbs, whose scales are the real 
leaves of the plants, grow under ground, where they alone, 

180 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

well protected from cold and tempest, live through the 
dreary winter season. Or they are hid by the water in 
which they live, and then frequently reach an almost in- 
credible length. Some marine algae have been found 
more than fifteen hundred feet long ; they branch off as 
they approach the surface, until they form a floating mass 
of foliage, hundreds of yards square. These stems re- 
semble cords in every variety of form and twist, and are 
used by the natives of the north-west coast, where they 
are most frequently found, as fishing lines — while others 
of the same kind are dried to serve as siphons, or are 
formed by the natives into trumpets, with which they 
collect their roving cattle at nightfall. The most remark- 
able stem, however, of all more common plants, is prob- 
ably that of the valisneria, an aquatic plant which grows 
at the bottom of rivers. It consists of long, elastic cords, 
twisted like a corkscrew, and sends some branches up to 
the surface, while others remain below and are completely 
submerged. When the flowering season approaches, the 
plant shows an instinct so closely approaching conscious 
action as to startle the careful observer. Some of the 
flowers are produced below, where they cannot exhibit the 
beauty of their frail blossoms; these begin to stretch and 
to twist, as if they longed for the bright sunshine above, 
and at last they succeed in breaking loose from their dark, 
gloomy home. In an instant, they rise to the surface, 
being lighter than water, expand there under the benign 
influence of light and air, and mingle their dust with other 
flowers, which are already floating there. This "high" 
life continues until the seeds are beginning to ripen, when 

Younger Years of a Plant. 181 

the elastic stems contract once more, and, with like won- 
derful instinct, carry the seed vessels down and bury them 
in the watery bed of the stream, where alone they can 
hope to find all the requisites for their future growth and 

The stems or trunks, finally, indicate in all long-lived 
plants the age with unerring accuracy. Their growth 
being limited only by external causes, the years of trees 
are seen in their size, and this union of age with the 
manifestation of constantly renewed vigor, is a charm pe- 
culiar to the life of plants. Animals, however curious, 
beautiful or imposing, have still a limited size and figure — 
plants alone grow without limit, and bring forth new roots 
and new branches as long as they live. This gives to very 
ancient trees, especially, a monumental character, and has 
ever inspired nations with a kind of instinctive reverence, 
which from the days of antiquity to our own has often 
degenerated into open worship. Who has not heard of 
the oaks of Mamre and the pilgrimages made to them 
fi^om the time of Abraham to that of Constantine — or of 
the far-famed cedars of Lebanon, which have always been 
distinguished as objects of regard and veneration, so that 
no threat of Sennacherib was more dreaded than that he 
would level them to the ground? Herodotus dwells with 
delighted sympathy on the marks of respect with which 
Xerxes loaded the famous plane-tree of Lydia, while he 
decked it with gold ornaments and intrusted it to the care 
of one of his ten thousand " Immortals." As forest trees 
increase by coatings from without, the growth of each 
year forming a ring round the centre of the stem, the 

182 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

number of years is usually ascertained — since the well- 
known author Michael Montaigne first started this theory 
— by counting the concentric rings. Care must, however, 
be had not to forget, that some trees begin to form these 
only after several years' growth, and that, whilst northern 
trees shed their leaves but onco a year, and therefore add 
but one ring during that time, those of the tropics change 
their foliage twice or thrice a year, and form as many 
rings. This renders the age of such trees, as were here- 
tofore considered the oldest, somewhat doubtful ; still there 
are some remarkable cases of longevity well authenticated. 
Humboldt measured a gigantic dragon-tree near the peak 
of TenerifFe, and found it possessed of the same colossal 
size, forty-eight feet round, which had amazed the Prench 
adventurers, who discovered that beautiful island more than 
three centuries ago — and yet it still flourished in perpetual 
youth, bearing blossoms and fruit with undiminished vigor ! 
Some yew trees of England, and one or two oaks, claim 
an age of from one thousand four hundred to three thou- 
sand years, and would, if their claims were substantiated, 
be the oldest trees in Europe — but a famous baobab, on 
the banks of the Senegal, is believed to be more than 
six thousand years old, in which case its seed might have 
vegetated before the foot of man trod the earth! Its only 
rival is a cypress tree in the garden of Chapultepec, which 
Humboldt considers still older ; it had already reached a 
great age in the days of Montezuma. A curious old age 
is that of a rose-bush which grows in the crypt of the 
cathedral of Hildesheim, in Germany ; it was there planted 
by the first founder of the church, and is expressly men- 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


tioned in the MSS. in which his donation and the building 
itself are described ; it also flourishes still, and bears as 
fragrant roses in these years of change and revolution, 
as eight hundred years ago, when Germany was one and 
great ! 

Most plants are accustomed — we hope not for their sins 
— to cover themselves, like our first parents, with leaves, 
and it is well established now, that the plant, properly 
speaking, consists only of stem and leaves — all other parts, 
like buds, flowers and fruits, being only modified forms 
of leaves. These are mostly green, and the depth of 
their color is an indication of the healthfulness of their 
action. But there are a hundred shades, and the color 
invariably contrasts most beautifully with the back-ground, 
on which the plants appear. The humble moss shines 
with its brilliant emerald green on the dark sides of 
rocks, whilst mushrooms display their gorgeous scarlet and 
orange between the sombre rugged roots of the trees, 
under whose shadow they love to dwell. The glossy color 
of the ivy looks all the more cheerful by the gray bark 
of crumbling ruins, which it hides v/ith the folds of its 
warm mantle, and vies with the carpet of verdure that 
vines spread over old turrets or the fallen trunks of an- 
cient trees, whilst in fall they reflect permanently the gold 
and purple of the setting sun. But, here also, beauty is 
not given to all with the same lavish hand. Whilst the 
queenly Victoria floats its richly-tinted leaves in gorgeous 
beauty on the dark mirror of calm, shady lakes, the poor 
lichens of the north shiver in their scanty coat : gray and 
withered in the shade, they look, when lighted up for a 

184 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

brief noonday time, like gigantic snow-crystals, and cause 
a chilly shudder. In Australia, where all extremes meet, 
from the bird-fashioned quadruped to the millionaire con- 
vict, the leaves of trees and bushes have a leathery look 
and are oddly twisted, turning their edges up and down, 
instead of standing horizontally, as with us. They afford 
no shade, and are covered with a white, resinous powder, 
which gives them a most dismal and pallid appearance. 
Yet — whatever form leaves may assume — their wonderful 
adaptation to their great duty strikes us in all plants alike. 
The immense extent of surface which they present to light 
and heat, the thinness and delicacy of their structure, the 
microscopic beauty of their minute apertures, their power 
of breathing in and out — all answer admirably the great 
purpose of exposing the crude sap, that rises from the 
root, to the air and the sun, to be by them digested into 
highly nutritious food. 

All leaves change their color in autumn, when a pecu- 
liar chemical change goes on in their substance, and takes 
the bright, fresh green, from them, to leave them in sad- 
colored livery, or to clothe them, as a parting gift, in 
the brilliant drapery of an Indian summer. It is then 
that, especially in American woods, a combination of hues 
is produced, which no painter can hope to imitate, when 
the maple burns itself away, and "all tj^e leaves sparkle 
in dazzling splendor with downy gold colors dipped in 
heaven." Not less variety may be perceived in the shape 
of leaves. Needle-shaped in northern evergreens, they are 
gathered, like tiny brushes, to collect at every point what- 
ever heat and moisture may surround them. Plants 

Younger Years of a Plant, 


growing in arid places, or high mountains, have leaves 
shaped like cups, with broad channels to conduct the pre- 
cious water of dew and rain to their roots. In trees 
bearing cones they are dry, pointed and narrow ; they 
seldom rustle, being silent ; but, as a compensation, they 
are ever green. Their high polish enables them to reflect 
what little heat they can gather in northern lands, whilst 
the light may still pass between them with ease. On 
catkin-bearing trees they are broad and tender, so that 
the gentlest wind gives them motion and sound, a charm 
wholly wanting in evergreens ; but their time is short, and 
they perish after a season ! As we approach the equator, 
we find leaves without polish, so as to reflect no heat, 
j)laced horizontally to form a shading roof. They grow 
broader and larger, with every degree, until the cocoa-palm 
has them more than one foot square, and a single leaf 
of the tallipot-palm of Ceylon can cover a whole family. 
Those of the waxy palm of South America are, moreover, 
so impermeable to moisture, that they are used as cover- 
ings for houses, and have been known to stand all the 
vicissitudes of the weather for more than twenty years, 
without being renewed. They thus form a screen by day, 
a tent by night, and become eminently useful in a land 
which is half the year burnt by a scorching sun, and the 
other half completely under water. In like manner leaves 
change according to the wants of the tree, whose ornament 
and best servants they are at the same time. The oak 
of our mountains has thick, broad leaves — that of the sea- 
shore, which we call willow and live oak, is satisfied with 
thin narrow leaves. The honeysuckle changes them at will 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

into tendrils, the pea into hands \vith three or five fingers, 
with which to grasp its support, though only when it has 
reached a certain height, and needs the latter ; the passion 
flower converts them into cork-screws, whilst the common 
nasturtium is content with a simple hook at the end of 
the leaf. Their arrangement also around stem and branches 
is not left to accident: a distinguished mathematician of 
our Cambridge once astonished a large and learned au- 
dience not a little, when he informed them that plants 
knew mathematics, and arranged their leaves according to 
fixed rules. A spiral line drawn from the base of one 
leaf, around the stem, to that of another, shows regular 
intervals between them, which vary in difierent plants, but 
are in each carefiilly and strictly observed. 

The great purpose of life in leaves is to carry on theii 
most active and important vital function — their respiration. 
They are the lungs of plants, not condensed, as in man, 
in one organ, but scattered independently in countless num- 
bers over the branches. For the purpose of breathing 
they are endowed with innumerable and often invisible 
little openings, commonly on both sides — in aquatic plants, 
however, whose leaves float on the surface of the water, 
only on the upper side. In the cactus tribe these are al- 
most wholly wanting, hence the latter are so succulent, 
^is they retain all the fluid that their roots have sucked 
up, and exhale nothing. Their activity is, of course, a 
twofold one, as they both take in and give out, with- 
out ceasing. They inhale atmospheric air, appropriate its 
oarbon for the formation of their juices, and return the 
separated and disengaged oxygen in the form of gas. This 

Younger Yeaiis of a Plant. 


process, however, can only go on during daytime, as light 
is indispensable — and is performed by all the green parts 
of a plant alike. It is this incessant labor which makes 
plants not only an ornament of our earth and a food for 
man and cattle, but renders them so eminently useful in 
the great household of Nature. They absorb the carbon, 
that man cannot breathe, and furnish, in return, the oxygen, 
without which he cannot exist ; thus virtually, by their 
industry, rendering the atmosphere fit for the support of 
animal life. Besides the exhalation of oxygen, the leaves 
also evaporate nearly two-thirds of the water which the 
roots have imbibed, and sent up to them through the in- 
terior of the plant. The moment this now perfectly pure 
water is exhaled, it is dissolved in the air, and becomes 
invisible to the eye. 

Another duty, which the leaves of plants perform with 
still greater energy, is the drawing of water from the 
atmosphere. They drink it in, from the first moment of 
their short life, to the last day, by all possible means. and 
contrivances. The young leaves, as yet wholly or in part 
rolled up, are but so many cups or spoons, turned to 
heaven to gather all the moisture they can hold. As the 
young plants grow, they unfold leaf after leaf, and all 
perform the same duty with the same eagerness. From 
the cedar of Lebanon down to the bashful violet, each 
plant holds forth its gigantic mass of foliage or its tiny 
goblet, to have its share of the precious moisture. A 
glance shows us that leaves have generally a little canal 
passing from the end up to their base, in which the water 
they have gathered runs down ; and it has been observed 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

that the drier and sandier the soil is on which plants grow, 
the more deeply furrowed are their leaves. In large trees, 
therefore, a constant stream of water flows from the end 
of the leaf to its stem, and from branch to branch until 
it reaches the trunk, and then in the deep furrows and 
crevices of the bark down to the roots, so that not a 
drop of the precious nutriment is lost. Water-plants, on 
the contrary, needing no such ingenious contrivances, as 
they have an abundance of the element all around them, 
display smooth leaves, often so highly varnished that the 
water runs off or stands in silvery pearls on the dark 
green surface. 

All plants are greedy consumers of water, and know 
how to obtain it^ by some peculiar, as yet unknown pro- 
cess, even in such regions of the tropics, where for half 
the year no cloud darkens the ever-serene sky, and where 
not even dew is given to refresh the panting vegetation. 
Their power, in this respect, is as great as it is mys- 
terious. The most succulent plants of the tropics cling 
to the faces of barren cliffs, or rise from dry, dust-like 
sand. It is true, their leaves contain both caoutchouc and 
wax, and are covered with a thin layer of these substances, 
as with a water-proof cloak, to prevent evaporation under 
a burning sun. Some plants, however, support themselves 
not only, but actually increase in weight w^hen suspended 
in the air, and unconnected with any soil, as the common 
houseleak and the aloe. The so-called air-plant, perhaps 
the most remarkable of the whole vegetable kingdom, is 
but a single leaf, without stem or root, and yet it is able 
to maintain life, to grow and to blossom, if only hung 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


up in a warm and damp atmosphere, though it be not 
even in contact with any other substance. It puts out 
buds, these become leaves, drop tiny roots into the air, 
and soon exist as independent plants. 

And here again we cannot help observing, how quietly 
the work of Nature is going on, unsuspected and un- 
heeded by others. The innumerable leaves of our forest 
and arbor trees form a vast summer laboratory, in which 
the great work of plants is incessantly continued, and which 
contributes, to an incalculable extent, to the support and 
the health of all animal existence. They afford us thus 
another of the countless proofs of creative design, which 
we may, at a glance, obtain from the vegetable world. 
They labor and work for themselves apparently all the 
while, but render the earth and all life thereon invaluable 
service. Even when they greedily draw up all moisture 
by roots or leaves, they become our benefactors. The 
despised mosses hold up their little cups to collect the 
waters of heaven, and make most ample return for its 
bounty. They clothe the steep sides of lofty hills and 
mountain ranges, and their densely-crowded delicate leaflets 
attract and condense the watery vapors constantly floating 
in the air, and thus become the living fountains of many 
a proud stream. The tall trees of the forest draw down 
the rain-filled cloud, as the lightning-rod invites the thunder 
storm, and the moisture so distilled is condensed into little 
streamlets which trickle down from twig and bough, even 
when the ground is dry and dusty. This gives fertility 
even to adjoining fields. The heavy, damp air, gathered 
by the woods, sinks down as fog or mist when the still 

190 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

cool evening conries, and rich dew pearls in the morning 
on the meadows, and refi^eshes the fields. Trees thus affect 
materially the climate and general character of countries. 
Tliickly-wooded regions, like our own continent, are colder 
and more humid than cultivated or broad treeless savan- 
nahs ; they abound in rain and fertile dew ; and to cut 
down our trees is seriously to impair the supply furnished 
by them to springs and rivers. Some lands would not 
be habitable but for trees. In one of the Canaries neither 
springs nor rivers are found ; but there grows a large, 
tall tree, called with veneration the Sai?it, in some of the 
deep recesses of the mountains. It keeps its lofty head 
all night long wrapped up in mist and clouds, from which 
it dispenses its timely, never-ceasing moisture in little 
rivulets, running merrily down from the leaves. Small 
reservoirs are built for the purpose of catching the pre- 
cious gift, and thus alone the island is made a fit dwelling- 
place for man. 

Humbler plants store up water in smaller quantities, 
but not the less pure or welcome. The melon cactuses 
have been called the vegetable fountains of the desert, 
because they conceal under their hideous prickly envelope, 
covered with dry lichens, an ample supply of watery pith. 
The great Humboldt tells us graphically, how, in the dry 
season, when all life has fled from the pampas, and even 
snakes lie buried in the dried-up mud, the wild mule, per- 
ishing with thirst, gallops up to the ill-shapen plants, strikes 
with its hoofs at the powerful prickles, until it has made 
an opening, and then warily approaches, with long pro- 
truding lips, to drink the well-defended, cool and refresh- 

Younger Years of a Plant. 


ing juice. Brazil, also, has a plant — the ramy one, it is 
called — that is remarkable for a constant flow of water 
from the points of its leaves, which falls upon the parched 
ground like a gentle shower of rain-drops. Quite a number 
of plants, it is well known, have regular pitchers, in 
which they accumulate moisture — some from within, and 
others by holding them open in rain or damp weather 
and closing a curiously-fashioned lid, when they are filled. 
Such are the side-saddle flower of our own country, with 
leaves like pitchers, covered with a top, and half full of 
water ; the monkey-cup of South America, to which it 
was once believed the monkeys resorted to quench their 
thirst, and the distilling nepenthes, which hold up their 
capacious and elegantly-formed pitchers, full of cool, color- 
less water, in the burning sands of the desert. A few 
trees change the nature of the fluid, and one, the cow-tree, 
is even good enough to satisfy hunger as well as thirst. 
It yields a rich, bland and oily juice, closely resembling 
milk, and that in sufficient abundance to refresh and to 
satisfy the hunger of several persons. But if the leaves 
of plants are so industriously and incessantly at work, it 
must not be forgotten, that some go regularly to rest, 
and sleep so profoundly that in a clover-field not a leaf 
opens until after sunrise, and others in South America are 
universally known as the sleepers.''^ Most mimosas fold 
up their delicate, feathery leaves, as night approaches, and 
when the sun rises once more, the little sleepy ones un- 
fold again, slowly, and, as it were, reluctant, like some 
of us, to begin their work anew. It has even been ob- 
served, that these so-called sensitive plants, when wounded 

192 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

or otherwise suffering, cannot sleep, but keep their leaves 
open and erect all night long, until they perish. Other 
plants close their leaves during the day, and awake from 
their slumbers at night, while a few even droop and clasp 
the stem, as if seeking support in its strength, whenever 
the sky is overcast and a storm is threatening. 

This peculiar faculty of sleep stands in immediate con- 
nection with the general power of certain leaves to move, 
either upon coming in contact with other bodies, or, ap- 
parently, in spontaneous motion. All the above-mentioned 
mimosas fold up their leaves, when merely touched ; first 
one little leaflet will be closed, then another, until the 
whole leaf proper, with its delicate footstalk, droops dowii 
and clasps the stem of the parent. If the plant be very 
irritable — and nervousness is here found to be in propor- 
tion to good health — the other leaves wdll follow the ex- 
ample, until the whole little plant plays, to use a Virginia 
phrase, "'possum," and looks, for all the world, as if it 
A^ere asleep. The oxalis of this continent requires several 
successive strokes to produce the same effect, and the 
robinia, our locust, which sleeps at night, must be violently 
shaken. The common wild lettuce, also, shows a great 
irritability, and, curiously enough, only when the plant is 
in flower. Upon being touched, the leaves contract be- 
neath, and force out, above, a milky juice, with which they 
soon become covered. 

The so-called spontaneous movements of leaves and 
other parts of plants arise mostly, though not always, 
from their general tendency to turn towards the light. 
Little is as yet known with accuracy of this interesting 

Younger Years of a Plant. 193 

feature in the life of plants. A great number of leaves, 
however, alter their position by night and by clay. Some 
make a half, some a quarter revolution, and then turn 
their points downward. Otkers, again, fold up, in regular 
order, the youngest leaf first, as if it required most resty 
whilst the oldest are apt to do entirely without it. In 
other plants it is the state of the atmosphere which deter- 
mines such movements — the beards of the geranium and 
the wild oat curl up in dry weather, and straighten again 
in damp days — other plants do the contrary. The hygro- 
metrica of South America closes the leaflets of its finely 
pinnated foliage long before the clouds rise, and thus fore- 
tells the impending change of the weather, and the plant, 
known among us as the fly-trap, is called in its home on 
the warm plains on the banks of the Senegal, the good- 
morning flower, because at that season of the day it grace- 
fully bends over and bows to the passer-by. On the 
banks of the Ganges, however, exists a vegetable form, so 
quick of life as to resemble some of the minor animals 
in its motion. The leaflets of this singular plant are in 
perpetual motion : one leaflet will rise by a succession of 
little starts and then fall in like manner; while one rises, 
another droops, and thus the motion continues and extends 
over the whole foliage. Nor does it cease at night ; in 
fact it is said to be more vigorous even in the shade, and 
in the still, hot hours of an Indian summer-night the plant 
is full of life and incessant motion. Not less singular is 
the action — for it is more than motion — of plants, like 
Venus's fly-trap, and others. The flowers are covered with 
sweet honey, and thus allure many an unfortunate insect, 

194 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

which has no sooner touched the sweet store, than the 
plant moves cither the long stiff hairs, which grow along 
the middle nerve, or closes its crown of gorgeously colored 
leaves above, and thus seizes upon the unlucky robber. 
4Ve can speak no longer of sweet innocent flowers — for 
so fond are these blood-thirsty plants of their favorite 
delicacies, that they will not thrive in green-houses from 
which insects are excluded, and gardeners have been com- 
pelled to supply them, strange as it may sound, literally 
with animal food, to see them thrive and blossom as in 
their native home! 

Lateu Years of a Plant. 



f ato |mo of a f kit. 

" Soft whilst we sleep beneath tho rural bow'rs, 
The loves and graces steal unseen away; 
And where the turf diffused its pomp of flow'rs 
"Wo wako to wintry scenes of chOl decay."— Shenstone. 

fpHE true, full life of plants may be said to begin and 
to end with their period of blooming. Whilst trees 
do not blossom until many years have passed over their 
lofty heads — the fir-tree and the beech, for instance, seldom 
before the fiftieth year — the humbler plants look upon the 
time when they are crowned with flowers as the happiest 
— and last, of their existence. It comes, with some, after 
a short year, whilst the Agave Americana lives many, 
though not quite a hundred years, without ever flowering. 
Then it produces, with amazing rapidity, an innumerable 
host of flowers, growing almost visibly, until it has un- 
folded its magnificent candelabrum of nearly fifty feet 
high, and then it perishes. So also the beautiful talipot 
palm : it grows and flourishes, and forms a vast crown 
of broad leaves at a great height ; then only it flowers 

196 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

for the first time, produces its seed and dies; so true is 
it, that 

"Ho bids each flower his quickening word obey, 
Or to each lingering bloom enjoins delay." 

Plants, however, have not only their age of blooming, 
but also their season. Whilst most of them open their 
bright chalices in spring or midsummer, when " the sun 
smiles on the earth, and the exuberant earth returns the 
smile in flowers," others do not bloom until fall or even 
winter. The autumnal crocus, which gives us saffron, 
blooms not until almost all the other flowers are gone. 
The black hellebore sends its pale green flowers as a 
Christmas present, and the fragrant blackthorn blossoms, 
while the cold north-east winds blow, in spite of cold 
and frost. The vernal crocus sends up its golden cups 
in early March, however cold it may be in the reign of 
what Coleridge calls "the dark, frieze-coated, hoarse, teeth- 
chattering month," and the silvery almond flower blooms 
on a leafless bough. Nay, the very hour of blooming is 
appointed to plants with mysterious accuracy. A few years 
ago I went to see, near Upsala, the cottage of old Linne, 
the father of modern botany, and among all the precious 
relics carefully preserved, near his home, there was no 
token of the pious reverence with which his countrymen 
honor his name, more touching than his floral clock. In 
a half circle, carefully arranged around his writing table, 
stood a number of plants which opened their flowers each 
at a certain moment, so that they revealed at a glance 
to the great master, the hour of the day, with unerring 
precision. For, as every bird has his hour when he awakes 

Later Years of a Plant. 


and sends up his hymn to praise his Maker, so every 
flower also has its time. They open commonly to the 
light, some in the morning, to close again at night, whilst 
others will not open at all, except in clear bright weather. 
The degree of light which they require, determines mostly 
the hour of the day at which they will unfold their beauty. 
Thus the daisy, like a true day's eye, opens its white and 
crimson-tipped star to meet the early beams of the rising 
sun ; and the morning-glory closes its sweet-scented flowers 
before the sun has risen high; the dandelion opens at 
half-past five, and closes at nine ; the scarlet pimpernel 
waits patiently until mid-day, and dreads rain so anxiously 
that it folds quickly up, even before the impending shower, 
and remains closed during the passage of a cloud. Hence 
its name of the "poor man's weather-glass." Others love 
late hours : the evening primrose opens its golden eyes 
in the sweet hour of eve, and retires before the returning 
glare of day. The brilliant white lotus, opening when the 
sun rises, and closing when he sets, still loves shade so 
well, that, when it has no shelter to screen itself, it folds 
up its pure leaves as soon as the sun reaches the zenith, 
as though unable to endure the too ardent rays of the 
luminary that called it into life. There are, on the other 
hand, also bats and owls found among plants, wide awake 
all night long. The convolvulus of the tropics blooms 
only at night, and so does that magnificent cactus, the 
large flowered torch-thistle. Late in the silent night, when 
all other flowers are sleeping, this strange plant, with its 
dry, bare stem, unfolds its gorgeous, vanilla-scented flowers. 
There are few others known of greater beauty ; they some- 

19B Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

times measure a foot in diameter, and when several of 
these magnificent creatures are open at once, upon the 
same plant, they seem like stars shining out in all their 
lustre, and verifying the poet's assertion, that 

"Darkness shows us a world of light 
"Wo never see by day." 

But it is a short glory indeed : at midnight they are 
fully blown, as soon as the morning dawns upon them, 
they fold up their charms, and a few hours later they 
are decayed, leaving not a trace of their gorgeous beauty 
behind them. 

Not all plants, it is well known, have flowers "to gaze 
on us with gentle, child-like eyes ;" the ferns and allied 
plants bearing seed without apparently blooming first. 
Where they occur, however, they are only a collection of 
several circles of more or less transformed and bright- 
colored leaves, which mostly alternate with each other. In 
the centre of these circles stand the reproductive organs, 
and a minute dust is generally found on the petals, appa- 
rently resting so lightly on them, that a breath of air 
might blow it away. The variety of their color is surpassed 
only by that of their shape. The purest colors occur in 
Alpine plants, where living flowers skirt the eternal frost; 
it is among these that we must look for the loveliest sky- 
blue, the purest snow-white, and the most beautiful rose- 
color, until we reach the very glory of luxuriant rhodo- 
dendrons forming a bright purple girdle around snow- 
covered peaks. By their side the flowers of the plain 
look impure and stained. But they have no odor, fra- 

Later Years of a Plant. 


grance being given to the children of the low lands only. 
So with man — it is not proud beauty that is most lovely ; 
there is a far more potent charm in the sweet perfume 
that surrounds the meek and the gentle. Trees arc dif 
ferent, for here Nature seems to have wished to com.pen- 
sate the north for the absence of gay colors, by giving 
sweet odors to whole classes of plants. Thus the numble 
reed is there aromatic enough, to form with sugar a flivorite 
luxury ; as dew falls there spreads abroad the fruit-like 
perfume of the golden furze ; the birch-tree exhales in 
early spring a sweet rose fragrance, and the pine is aro- 
matic from the root to its graceful cone. Some flowers 
have unpleasant odors. The largest on earth, which takes 
its name from its discoverer. Raffles, and which is more 
than three feet in diameter, has an animal smell, closely 
resembling that of beef, and the so-called friar's-cowl 
smells so strongly of spoiled meat, that it deceives the 
blue-bottle fly, and tempts it to deposit its eggs there, 
as if it were carrion. Poisonous plants have, generally, 
a sickening and noxious smell, like our aconftes, the ailan- 
thus, and Kentucky locust, which exhale a subtle poison, 
and are fatal to many insects. In all instances, however, 
fragrance is given to plants for some special and bene- 
ficent purpose, mostly to attract animals, and to tell them 
where a table is spread for them. It is well known that 
all animals smell what they want to eat, often at a pro- 
digious distance, and as Nature calls by their smell the 
vulture and the buzzard to perform that duty, which is 
their highest enjoyment, so all theory of botany lies, with 
animals, in their exquisitely developed smell. Nor ought 

200 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

we to omit mentioning here, in humble gratitude, that 
Columbus, when his crew mutinied, and his brave heart 
nearly failed him, felt his hopes revived and his courage 
restored by the sweet odor of sassafras, which the land- 
breeze brought upon its wings from the distant shores of 
the New World. 

The oddest shapes of flowers are probably found among 
the orchidacese of this continent, whose flowers, rich in 
every shade and variety of color, portray in their extra- 
ordinary formation almost the entire scope of animated 
nature, beasts, birds, and fishes. Some represent a helmet 
with its visor up ; others look like ants and larger insects. 
The bee and the fly, the spider and the lizard, are each 
accurately copied in certain varieties ; one looks for all 
the life like a dove, and is irreverently called the Holy 
Ghost ; and another resembles a large and beautiful but- 
terfly so closely as to deceive even the instinct of birds. 

It is perhaps one of the most curious, and, as yet, most 
mysterious features in the life of plants, that the appear- 
ance of flowers is in some instances accompanied by very 
remarkable phenomena. In many of our creepers, in the 
lilies and the common gourd, a kind of fever-heat is per- 
ceptible at the time of inflorescence. Sometimes, it ap- 
pears in paroxysms, then again it rises and falls regularly, 
and so distinctly, that in one plant, which has perhaps 
only been subjected to more careful observations than 
others, the heat has been noticed to increase daily from 
60 to 110, or even 120 degrees, and then again to fall to 
the temperature of the atmosphere. Some have thought 
that this very striking peculiarity of certain flowers might 

Lateu Years of a Plant. 


be connected with the power of others to emit light. The 
gentle daughter of Linne, when walking on a dry, sultry 
summer evening through her father's green-house, first ob- 
served flashes of phosphorescent light on a few plants. 
Since then others also have been found to be so endowed, 
and the common nasturtium of our gardens, if plucked 
at the time of a bright sunshine, and at once carried into 
a dark room, will become visible to the eye, after a while, 
by a gentle light emitted from its leaves. In fact, most 
of our yellow or orange-colored flowers, our marigold and 
monkshood, will in serene summer evenings give out light, 
either in the form of sparks, or in a steadier, but more 
feeble glow. In a few plants this peculiar gift is not 
limited to the flowers only, but common to all leaves. 
Thus many lichens, creeping along the roof of caverns, 
lend an air of enchantment to them, by the soft and clear 
light they diffuse, while another plant, abounding in the 
jungles of the Madura district in the East Indies, gives 
such an extraordinary vivid light, that it illuminates the 
ground around it for some distance. 

Equally striking and peculiar is the clear, loud sound 
with which the golden or dazzling white flowers of cer- 
tain palm-trees open — a sound already noticed in times 
of antiquity, as we learn from Pindar, who speaks of the 
season, when " the first opening shoot of the date-palm 
proclaims the arrival of balmy spring." This, however, 
seems to be the only exception to the general stillness, 
with which Nature proceeds in her work, ever showing 
how calm and unpretending the growth of every thing 
beautiful is in God's visible world. It is a frequent re- 

202 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

mark that "we never hear a rose openmg or a tulip 
shoothig forth its gorgeous colors," and yet of the same 
quiet flowers it was said : Consider the lilies of the field : 
I say unto you, that Solomon, in c^ll his glory, was not 
arrayed like one of these! 

When the beauty of flowers is gone, their leaves drop 
quietly, silently to the ground ; but a part of the flower 
always remains attached to the stem, and this contains 
the fruit or the seeds of the plant by which it continues 
its existence and reproduces itself. It is in the process 
of preparing these parts that plants show most distinctly 
how well they know what time of the year it is. In 
autumn they feel that winter is coming, and prepare for 
it, by completing all the necessary processes with far 
greater activity than they have shown at any other period 
of their life. It is, of course, not an innate conscious- 
ness of the season that impels them to do so, but an 
extremely delicate and now much heightened perception 
of outward influences, inappreciable to our less refined 
senses. The production of seeds is the great end of the 
life of the majority of plants, though not of trees and 
all those who live for many years. But the humbler 
plants see in it the great purpose of their existence : for 
tliis they have grown and worked and lived, for this they 
have unfolded the whole rich apparatus of flowers, and 
now their best cares are bestowed upon the ripening fruit. 
No precaution is neglected to preserve it ; the little cap- 
sules which hold the precious seed of future generations, 
are surrounded with thorns, or covered with down, cased 
in leather, Iniried in large masses of j^ucculeut fle-sh, <>v 

Later Years of a Plant. riO'S 

carefully packed away in hard, air-tight shells. A mother 
could not have better care for the cradle of her beloved 
one. Then, when the seed is ripe, and has to be turned 
out into the wide world to seek a resting-place and a 
home, it is furnished with a crest of feathers, or intrusted 
to a tiny embarkation. Nature gives it wings to fly with 
or a boat to swim in. And so admirably is the minute 
grain protected, that the smallest have often survived for 
centuries. Raspberry-seeds, it is well known, have been 
found in a barrow, thirty feet deep, alongside with coins 
of the Emperor Hadrian, and yet, when sown, they have 
borne fruit. The pyramids of the Pharaohs are crumbling 
into dust, but the grains of wheat, found in their interior 
and once more intrusted to the tender care of their 
mother earth, have joy-ously sprouted and made an am- 
ple return. 

The fruit undergoes, of all parts of the plant, perhaps 
the largest number of remarkable changes, even after it 
has already reached its full size and complete shape. Acid 
whilst growing, it becomes sweet as it ripens, and is 
sugary when perfectly mature. Fermentation makes it 
vinous, and, dried up, it turns sour or bitter. Fruits vary 
in taste, apparently to suit, by the kindness of an All- 
wise Providence, the changing wants of man. During the 
oppressive heat of summer, nature ripens for him juicy 
and refreshing cherries, peaches and melons ; the more 
sugary figs and mulberries disappear as fast as the bright 
days that produced them. When the warm sun is leaving 
us, and cold chills begin to threaten, more vinous fruits 
ripen, like pears and apples, with their warm, nutritious 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

juice. At last, when autumn already veils the sun in cold 
mists, and cuts off its warmth from us by dark clouds, 
the grape gives us, in its fermented juice, the most pow- 
erful cordial. Winter brings oily and farinaceous nuts, 
almonds and olives, which keep long and warm well. 
Still it must not be forgotten that those fruits which are, 
so to speak, necessaries of life, the wheat of the north, 
and the* date, cocoanut and bread-fruit of the south, are 
constantly found in all stages of development, and last 
longer than a short season. 

But fruits do more ; they actually tell us when they 
are ripe and wish to be gathered. They mostly change 
their color for this purpose : as long as they are unripe, 
they are green like the leaves, among which they are 
concealed, or reddish like the bark to which they closely 
adhere, as is the case with plums. When they approach 
maturity, they assume brighter colors, so that the very 
change announces them to be ripe, and their rich red, 
blue, yellow, or black, invites those for whose use they 
were intended. Others appeal to us by their smell — and 
some even to our ear. The chestnut-burr snaps in the 
keen air, when the silent groves are already clad in au- 
tumn's garb ; acorns and beechnuts are heard to fall in 
the clear atmosphere, and the ripe cocoanut strikes the 
ground with such force that the sound is heard for many 
miles. Other fruits of palms, which, until ripe, w^ere hid 
under the protecting screen of broad leaves, burst with a 
noise like a pistol shot, a signal at w^iich more than one 
guest is seen to hurry up to the rich treat. Among the 
latter none aic perhaps more curious than the land-crabs 

Later Years of a Plant. 


of the West Indies. They are exceedingly fond of these 
nuts, and yet it is vain for thera to look up to a height 
which even man can but rarely reach ; so the tree itself 
rings the dinner-bell when all is ready, and as night falls 
the hungry gourmands are seen to rush in armies to the 
feast to which they have been so quaintly invited. 

After the fruit has ripened and the seed has been sent 
adrift, comes mostly the " last scene of all, that ends this 
strange, eventful history." For plants also die, and when 
they have bloomed and given seed, they droop and hide 
themselves in the ground, to rise once more and ever again 
with the coming spring. " The grass withereth and the 
flower fadeth," now under a burning sun, and now for want 
of moisture ; excessive cold kills even the proud oak and 
glorious elms ; the action of poisons or the ravages of an 
insignificant beetle make an end to their lives, but they 
die — happy plants ! — without pain, without consciousness, 
still and silent as they have lived. Their time of life 
varies greatly, from the athletic oak, that stands the storms 
of a thousand years, a monument of nations, to the humble 
mushroom under its shade, which rises in a night, to perish 
in the morning. But the season comes for all, when the 
wind passes over them, and they are gone, and the place 
thereof knows them no more. And the vine is dried up, 
and the fig-tree languisheth, the pomegranate, the palm- 
tree, also, and the apple-tree, even all the trees of the 
field are withered. But how sweet is here even the part- 
ing, how full of comfort for the present, how full of hope 
for the future ! The dying breath of fading flowers is 
their sweetest perfume, and a deep flush often overspreads 

206 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

their rich crowns, before they fall. Even the leaves, when 
they shrink and tremble in the autumn breeze, are full 
of unwonted sweetness. And what can equal the oft de- 
scribed glory of fall, when the grasses take their humble 
russet garb, and the maple wears its "gorgeous crimson 
robe like an Oriental monarch." For leaves also change 
— some only as the ermine whitening in the cold season, 
or as birds who change their plumage in winter ; such are 
the evergreens ; others change to live no more ; as man 
does, before he also returns, dust to dust. Their bright 
green grows pale, their vigor declines, their delicate tracery, 
that had so often induced us to marvel and worship the 
hand that made them, is effaced, and no longer serves to 
pass the life-blood of the tree. Then they shrink and 
shrivel, they flutter awhile anxiously on their feeble leaf- 
stalks, as if reluctant to leave their sweet summer home, 
and then comes the rude boisterous gale, and tears them 
for ever from the parent tree. " The bare skeleton of the 
tree becomes transparent, rising in spectral grandeur, as 
it stretches, full of woe, its bare branches against the cold 
evening sky, and rattles in the fierce tempest. A new, 
ghastly light is shining through its stripped anatomy. And 
it is a light, as with man — the same light of heaven, which 
in the waning lustre of life makes his spirit become 
lovelier every hour, giving him a sublimer fliith, a brighter 
hope, a kindlier sympathy, a gentler resignation. Like 
the autumn leaf, he also glows into decay, and kindles 
into death. The sun of another world, already risen upon 
liis soul, though human eyes camiot behold it, burns through 
the delicate texture of his thoughts, feelings and desires, 

Later Years of a Plant. 


and shines, already here on earth, in all the radiancy of 
truth, hope, and peace." 

Varied, therefore, as the appointed time of plants is, 
it has its fixed, irrevocable term. Not all leaves fall at 
the same time. The pine-tree keeps its leaves two or 
four years ; the fir and spruce change only every ten 
years ; some trees drop annually certain branches. The 
dead foliage of some oaks clings to them, long, after all 
others have been swept away, and the young elm waits 
all winter, and drops not a leaf until its successor pushes 
it out of its resting-place. Some fall to form a soft litter 
beneath ; others remain to afford shelter in bleak winter. 
But no art of man can arrest the falling leaf when its 
day has come. Artificial heat, removal to a warmer 
climate, and great care, may succeed in bringing out new 
crops almost without pause — but the process exhausts the 
ill-used plant, and it dies a premature death. Still even 
the decayed leaf is not lost. It enriches the soil, and 
fall produces spring, the dying leaves helping to bring 
forth the bright verdure of the coming year. Thus the 
great circle of life goes on without interruption. The 
general signal for the shedding of leaves is the maturity 
of the seed ; that greatest purpose of the life of plants 
once accomplished, they die, or at least, rest for a season. 
Thus death comes to some after a few days ; bushes and 
low trees keep their seeds during the winter, welcome 
food for starving birds; and the humble chickweed brings 
forth seed seven or eight times a year, not resting even 
during winter, and keeps open table for many a tiny wren 

208 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

or hungry sparrow ; showing us once more Providence so 
much greater, as its creature is feebler. 

This kind of decay excepted, plants, it is thought, are 
not subject to the destructive operation of internal causes ; 
vegetable life succumbs to outward influences only. The 
vitality of trees is certainly almost incredible. No kind 
of mutilation can, apparently, destroy them. Who has 
not seen old willow trees, adhering but with a small por- 
tion of the bark to their roots, and yet continuing to live 
and to perform their duty? How beautifully does not» 
the chestnut of our own noble forests send out a crown 
of young shoots to hide the vacant space where once it 
reared its mighty stem"? The whole vitality of the inner 
wood may, in fact, be destroyed ; if only some layers 
of the bark survive, the tree will vegetate with undi- 
minished vigor, and continue its life for an almost un- 
limited period. They will, in very old age, lose some of 
their height by decay at the top, for it seems as if the 
sap could no longer ascend the whole lengthy road from 
the deeply buried roots to the lofty crown, but they con- 
tinue still to increase in girth, and patiently wait for the 
stroke of the axe or the fierce rage of the tempest. Thus 
it is that England boasts of many a yew or an oak tree, 
which has survived the massive church, by the side of 
which it was planted, and which yet, spring after spring, 
shelters the ruins of its once so proud companion, with 
its dark, refreshing verdure. The tender leaf even resists 
in its fragile texture, the winds and rains, the burning sun, 
and the nipping cold of a whole season. Greek and Ro- 
man sepulchres, stately palaces and lofty monuments over 

Later Years of a Plant. 


the graves of the great and the renowned, have disap- 
peared ; nothing is left to mark the place where they once 
stood, but the dark cypresses that saw them rise, and since 
have overshadowed them for ages. 

But even after death, plants live on, as it were, and are 
useful to man. Vast tracts of heath, covering large, low 
basins, and formed by the annual accumulation of veget- 
able matter, which in water becomes to a certain degree 
decomposed or carbonized, finally produce those blackened 
remains of plants which we call peat. 

Or extensive forests, covering valleys, and hillsides, are 
overflooded, and the uprooted trees form a gigantic barrier, 
which prevents the flowing off of the waters. An exten- 
sive marsh is formed, particularly well adapted for the 
growth of various kinds of mosses. As they perish they 
are succeeded by others, and so for generations in un- 
ceasing life and labor, until, in the course of time, the 
bottom, under the influence of decay and the pressure 
from above, becomes turf. Tar below lies hard coal ; 
the upper part is light and spongy. At various depths, 
but sometimes as much as twenty feet below the surface, 
an abundance of bogwood is found, consisting mostly of 
oak, hard and black as ebony, or of the rich chocolate 
colored wood of the yew. Such ancient forests every now 
and then rise in awe-inspiring majesty from their grave. 
The whole city of Hamburg, its harbor, and broad tracts 
of land around it, rest upon a sunken forest, which is 
now buried at an immense depth below the surface. It 
contains mostly limes and oaks, but must also have 
abounded with hazel-woods, for thousands of hazel-nuts are 

210 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

brought to light by every excavation, not exactly made 
for nuts. Our own city of New Orleans, it has been 
recently discovered, is built upon the most magnificent 
foundation on which city ever rose. It was the boast 
of Venice, that her marble palaces rested in the waters 
of the Adriatic on piles of costly wood, which now serve 
to pay the debts of her degenerate sons, but our Venice 
has not less than three tiers of gigantic trees beneath it. 
They all stand upright, one upon another, with their roots 
spread out as they grew, and the great Sir Charles Lyell 
expresses his belief that it must have taken at least 
eighteen hundred years to fill up the chasm, since one 
tier had to rot away to a level with the bottom of the 
swamp before the upper tier could grow upon it. 

But there is still another vegetable world buried be- 
neath our feet. For the trees of so-called primeval forests 
belonging to a period of hoary antiquity and far surpassing 
in exuberance the rankest tropical jungles of our day, 
have not, like modern woods, undergone decay, but are 
treasured up in subterranean houses. There they were 
transformed into vast enduring beds of coal, which in these 
latter ages has become to man the source of light, of 
heat, and wealth. Almost all of these trees are gigantic 
fern-trees, such as the world of our day knows no more ; 
a few are so-called club-mosses of equally vast dimensions. 
Leaves and 'twigs rest closely one upon another, but often 
entire stems are found standing upright, forty to fifty feet 
high, with all their roots and branches, dread memorials 
of times beyond the memory of man. 

Thus we may trace the biography of plants through 

Later Years of a Plant. 


their often brief but always eventful life, from the first 
appearance of a small microscopic cell to their last 
burying-place under our feet, through all the glories and 
delicacies of vegetable life, beginning with the softened 
and decayed germ, and ending with the fossil coal. We 
see that each plant has a life of its own, that there dwells 
still in each tree a Dryad who watches over it and de- 
termines its growth, or sighs her last when it dies. We 
observe the beautiful harmony that exists between all 
their parts and the world that surrounds them. How 
the roots fasten themselves to the earth on which they 
grow, while the stem plays with every breath of air that 
comes we know not whence. The leaves breathe the water 
of rivers and of the atmosphere, the sun unfolds bud and 
flower, and the seed at last connects the plant once more 
with its future home, an eloquent witness of our own 
blessed immortality. But there is no monument set by 
their grave to tell us how they lived and what they 
achieved. Yet, they had their duties to perform, and 
faithfully have they done them. Well may we, then, in 
conclusion, ask — Yoy what purpose does the plant spring 
up, the soil feed and nourish it, and the blessed sun ma- 
ture its seed? 

Plants satisfy the common necessities of man and beast. 
They nourish man's body in health, they restore him in 
sickness; they give him the clothing that covers him, the 
varied hues that delight his eye, and the odors which re- 
fresh his senses ; the timber of which his houses, his fac- 
tories, and his ships, are partly or wholly constructed — all 
these are but a few of the many benefits which the veget- 

212 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

able world confers upon man. Wherever we look, we 
see in it our great resource ; even our railroads and our 
mines could not exist, were we not masters of forests. 
We would succumb to the cold of winter, food that be- 
comes nutritious only by the aid of fire, would be useless, 
the power of steam would not carry us from land to 
land and over the broad ocean, if we had no trees. The 
very destruction of plants is made necessary for their ex- 
istence, for the wisdom and forethought of the Creator is 
in this also manifest, that, whilst plants invest and orna- 
ment the earth, animals browse and trim them to check 
their luxuriance, so as to maintain the whole system of 
creation in order and beauty. And yet this is but the 
humblest purpose that plants serve on earth — the hum- 
blest because it only satisfies material requirements, how- 
ever we ourselves may have refined and varnished them 
over. Only in one point of view does this important end 
of their existence obtain a higher value: 

It is true, plants are there for man, for the countless 
poor, and God said : In the sweat of thy face shalt thou 
eat bread ; thou shalt eat the herb of the field. But the 
very curse of the Almighty has since been turned into 
a blessing. If man does labor in the sweat of his brow, 
to eat the herb of the field — how abundantly is he re- 
warded ! Of a mere thorn he has made, as if by enchant- 
ment, the beautifid and fragrant rose. Before he thus 
labored, the olive was dry and offensive, the peach bitter, 
the pear had but a hard, woody flesh, and the apple-tree 
was full of thorns. Man labored and the thorns fell, the 
rose doubled and trebled its brilliant crown, the peach 

Later Years of a Plant. 


and the pear filled with perfumed juice, the olive lost its 
bitterness, and the wild grasses were converted into waving 
fields of life-sustaining grain. The influence which the 
vegetable world thus exercises on the civilization of man, 
is as yet but little noticed ; only in the great outline has 
it been observed, that wherever the spontaneous produc- 
tions of the earth supply him with food, he is completely 
savage — only a degree farther advanced where he plants 
the palm and the banana — but where grain is his principal 
support, as in the temperate zone, industry and intelligence 
are most perfectly developed. We are thus taught, that 
the rich heir is not the happiest, but that the child of 
the poor man, gifted with industry and indomitable will, 
has far more power over prosperity. 

Modern science has revealed to us, of late, a higher 
duty and a nobler purpose in the life of plants. Working 
in masses they regulate the numerous and comprehensive 
physical processes of the earth. Theirs is the duty to 
keep the atmosphere dry or moist, as may be required. 
On them depends the warmth or the coldness and the fer- 
tility of our soil ; they alter the climate, change the course 
of local winds, increase or diminish the quantity of rain, 
and soften the rigor of the seasons. It is not merely 
that whole countries and regions look to certain plants 
for their sole support, or that the life of entire nations 
is bound up with that of a single tree, like the Mauritius 
palm, but whole races of men, through numberless gener- 
ations, can live only where it pleases, under Providence, 
certain plants to grow and to prosper. 

By far the noblest and most exalted purpose for which 

SI 4 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

plants live is, however, to adorn the surface of our beau- 
tiful earth, and thus to make manifest to us, in their very 
existence, and in all their thousand wonders, the Almighty 
Creator of heaven and earth. It is in this aspect only 
that plants, the types of nature, acquire their highest sig- 
nificance. They become then, not our friends and sup 
porters only, but our kindly teachers also. Whether we 
look down upon soft mosses that creep over the rugged 
rock, and humble lichens weeping with slow oozing, or gaze 
up at the giant tree of the forest, every where our mind 
is lifted up, in awe and wonder, to that Intelligence which 
watches over the destinies of the universe, and gives us 
here already a faint glimpse of the great plan of crea 
tion and its great author. 

Clearly, however, as we all feel the impressions which 
the vegetable world, and especially the consciousness of 
their still, unceasing life and labor produces upon our 
mind, it is extremely difficult to explain the causes, or 
even to determine and express them in words, clearly 
and distinctly. The mere farmer, it is true, sees nothing 
but tons of hay in a flowery meadow, and so many bushels 
of wheat in a glorious field of golden grain — the majestic 
forests represent to him but so many cords of wood, and 
the broad branched elm, in all its lovely beauty, • shades 
his land, and is a nuisance. On the other hand, we know 
that it is not the refined mind and the most fastidious 
taste that enjoy the beauties of the vegetable world most 
and best. The humble men of St. Kilda, we are told, 
\vho went to pay their duty to their lord in the " far 
southern" island of Skye, could hardly proceed on their 

Later Years uf a Plant. 


journey, because " the trees — such beautiful things they 
had never seen even in their dreams — the trees kept 
pulling them back." It is, moreover, evidently not the 
mere mass of foliage, nor the depth and variety of color, 
that affects our senses, but the almost imperceptible and 
unconscious effect of all .these elements together on our 
soul. The rose does not please us merely because of its 
tender glow and delicate hue, but because our imagina- 
tion connects with it the idea of blooming youth, and a 
thousand other images float around this. The landscape, 
with its various parts and beauties, acts upon man, upon 
his tone of mind, and thus imperceptibly upon his entire 
inward development. How different must needs be the 
idea of the world to him who obtained his first impres- 
sions from the solemn, evergreen pine woods of the north, 
overshadowing deep blue lakes and vast granite-strewn 
plains ; and to the happier man, whose early days passed 
under the bright leaf of the myrtle and the fragrant laurel, 
reflecting the serene sky of the south ! Even in the same 
land, how differently is the mind affected by the dark 
shade of a beech-wood, the strange sight of a few scat- 
tered pines on a lonely hill, sighing sadly in the fitful 
gusts of wind, or of broad, green pasture-lands, where the 
breeze rustles gently through the trembling foliage of 
birches ! Our hearts beat gladly and joyously when fields 
of flowers are lighted up in bright sunshine ; our spirits 
droop when we see them look sad and forlorn on a rainy, 
melancholy day. Peace and quiet happiness teach their 
gentle lessons to him who dwells in fertile valleys, with 
velvet lawns on their bottom, and the sides tufted with 

216 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the ash, the cheerful beech or the feathery juniper, shaded, 
it may be, by the soft dark verdure of ancient yew-trees, 
whose venerable trunks were slender saplings in the age 
when Druids worshipped there. Men live not so on the 
boundless prairie, where the wolf chases the swift crane, 
where cloud races after cloud, and the white man wages 
war against the red man. Free and bold, beyond all 
others, breathes the mountaineer, bred in the fierce, in- 
cessant warfare with the rigor of Alpine winters and the 
dangers of the chamois hunt ; defying all earthly power, 
he looks down from his lofty home, proud that liberty 
dwells on mountain-heights, and that the foul breath of 
the grave does not reach up into the clear blue ether 
around him. 

The effect is as varied when we take not the whole vast 
scenery of a landscape, but its more isolated parts. Few 
will look upon the ineffable beauty and sweetness of 
flowers, that rich jewelry with which heaven has adorned 
the bosom of our mother earth, without feelings of ele- 
vating and refining delight. To him who observes, not 
with his eyes only, but with his mind intent, his heart 
alive, there is no resisting their unconscious unfolding, 
their peaceful, childlike life, their gentle, resigned and 
hopeful drooping. Who has not in his life also some 
days of gay and sunny spring, when he loved to look 
upon flowers as dear to him, full of hope and love, when 
he felt for them and with them, as they would ever look 
fondly upward to the clear, blue heaven above, smiling 
on the sun that cheered them, rising lightly from reft'eshing 
rain, never folding up their beauty and sweet fragrance, 

Later Years of a Plant. 217 

save to give it forth again as day would once more 
brightly rise. Oh, well has it been said that each cup 
of a flower is a pulpit, and each leaf a book from which 
we may learn the wisdom, goodness and power of Him 
who has so lavishly scattered his handiwork over the face 
of the earth. Few, also, can look up to a stately tree, 
reared in its colossal leafy grandeur, its head in the clouds, 
its roots in the firm earth, so full of life and vigor, with- 
out feeling himself lifted up with its gigantic branches 
to higher thoughts and purer feelings. We all can feel 
with the exiled Syrian, who went to the Jardin des Plantes 
and there "clasped his country's tree and wept." And 
as the scalding tears trickled down the rugged cheek, he 
was once more a wanderer in the desert, and once more 
he breathed, across the dreary sand, the perfume from the 
thicket bordering on his promised land ; again he saw, 
afar off, the palm-tree, cresting over the lonely, still wa- 
ters, and heard the pleasant tinkle of the distant camel's 
bell — until his tears were dried, hope again revived, and 
fresh and glad emotions rose within his swelling breast. 
Oh, there are wondrous lessons in plants ! Eloquently 
quotes a modern writer thus of the words that trees speak 
to us : " Do not trees talk with their leafy lungs ? Do 
they not at sunrise, when the wind is low and the birds 
are carolling their songs, play sweet music? Who has 
ever heard the soft whisper of young leaves in spring, 
on a sunny morning, that did not feel as if rainbow beams 
of gladness were running through his heart ? and then, 
when the morning glory, like a nun before God's holy 
altar, discloses her beauteous fice and the moss-roses open 

218 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

their crimson lips, sparkling with nectar that fell from 
heaven, who does not bless his Maker 1 — and when autumn 
comes, the season of the sere and yellow leaf, when wheat 
is in its golden prime, and the corn waves its silken tassels 
in the charmed air, who is not reminded of the reaper 

As every season has its own tone and lesson,^^ every 
flora and every variety has its peculiar echo in the heart 
of man. Harmonizing, like music, with all the various 
trains of thought and images of fancy, with every con- 
ceivable state of mind, plants and groups of plants ever 
awaken kindred feelings. There is a mysterious affinity 
between human consciousness and outward nature, but still 
more mysterious is the varied manner in which this re- 
lation is modified by individual feeling. The waving corn- 
field has its beauties, and so have long avenues of poplars, 
with vines hanging in rich festoons from tree to tree. 
Plains covered with orange groves and chequered with 
fertile slopes and vineyards, dense forests of gigantic and 
primeval growth swarming with every variety of animal 
and vegetable life, these and countless other scenes find 
each its response in some train of human emotions and 
affections, which, like the lyre of Timotheus, they by turns 
excite and soothe. Each tree that we know has its own 
expression ; it has witnessed our joy or our grief, and 
wherever it meets our eye, it seems to murmur responses. 
So it is with larger groups. Here we see vast prairies 
with gently waving floods of verdure, full of grace and 
cheerfulness, there long sombre porticoes of gnarled old 
stems, standing, as the cedars of Lebanon, massive pillars, 

Later Years of a Plant. 


supporting their ponderous domes. Beautiful roses, with 
their short-lived flowers and hidden but permanent thorns, 
remind us of earthly pleasures — a forest, with its silent 
temple of foliage, raised through centuries on gigantic 
trunks, high above man and full of peace and majesty, 
fills us with religious awe, and makes us bow low and 
reverently before these visible tokens of the Creator's 
sublime power. Even the humblest of flowers bring with 
their sweet perfume rich blessings to the heart of him 
whose hand tends them with care. Where a flower opens 
its quiet, child-like eyes upon us, our passions fly like 
evil spirits, and he who delights in the still, humble growth 
of delicate plants, is not apt to harbor coarse thoughts 
or fierce feelings. In the house around which we see a 
tidy, well-kept garden, order and peace are apt to prevail, 
and where there is a flower-stand outside, there is almost 
always a book-shelf within. 

In his joy and in his sorrow, therefore, man loves to 
surround himself with plants and flowers. He crowns the 
bride with sweet myrtle or the pure orange blossom ; the 
laurel speaks to him of glory and renown, the palm-branch 
of glorious hopes for the future. And w^hen the loved 
one departs, he turns again to the flowers of the earth 
and the trees of the forest, that they may grieve with 
him and give expression to his sorrow. From the South 
Sea to the icy north, from east to west, grief finds the 
same simple but touching expression. The mourning 
peasant of Normandy burns the lowly straw bed, on which 
his friend expired, before his hut, and the round black 
spot, as it contrasts with the green turf by its side, re- 

220 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

mains long an humble but eloquent epitaph of him who 
left no other record behind. In peaceful villages we see 
neither gorgeous monuments, nor lofty trees rising in honor 
of the dead — and, we fear, as frequently in praise of the 
living — but, sweeter far, the graves are covered with green 
sod or humble flowers. " We adorn graves," says gentle 
Evelyn, "with flowers and redolent plants, just emblems 
of the life of man, which has been compared in Holy 
Scripture to those fading beauties, whose roots being 
buried in dishonor, rise again in glory." 

The Japanese deck with flowers their " eternal mansion," 
and the Turks perforate the monumental slabs spread on 
those who shall be seen no more, in order that a natural 
growth of bloom may spring up through the apertures, 
and that the buds, so nourished by the grave, and set free 
to the winds of heaven, may shed their fragrance and 
strew their petals around the " city of silence." The 
western traveller gazes with deep sympathy upon the 
grave of the Chinese ; it is a simple, conical mound of 
earth, but over it spread and twine wild roses and cover 
it with a mass of pure white blossoms, or it is crowned, 
in simple majesty, with a tall tuft of waving grass. Our 
cities, also, now love to bury their dead where woods un- 
fold their massive foliage and breathe an air of heaven ; 
their better taste has made the green grove and the velvet 
lawn sacred to the memory of those that are gone to 
the realms of peace. 

And what eloquent mourners are not trees ! The dense 
cone of the cypress overshadows mournfully the Moslem's 
tomb, with its sculptured turban, and the terebinth keeps 

Later Years of a Plant. 


watch by the Armenian's grave. Some nations love to 
weep with the weeping birch, that most beautiful of forest 
trees, the lady of the woods, with "boughs so pendulous 
and fair," or with the willow of Babylon, on whose branches 
the captive Israelites hung up their harps. They love to 
look upon their long, thin leaves and branches, as they 
hang languidly down to the ground, or trail listlessly on 
the dark waters, now waving full of sadness in the sigh- 
ing breeze, and now floating in abandoned despair on the 
silent waves. Their whole dishevelled and disheartened 
aspect seems to deplore some great misfortune, and we 
can fancy poor Desdemona singing how 

"The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamoro tree, 
Sing all a green ■willow, 
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee. 
The fresh streams ran by her and murmured her moans. 
Her salt tears fell from her and softened the stones. 

Sing all a green willow must be my garland," 

for Desdemona also had a song of a willow, and she died 
singing the song of the willow. 

Other nations again love not trees that seem to unite 
in sorrow with the earth, and to carry our regrets to the 
dust, but rather cherish such as seem to lift up our hearts 
in their branches, and to raise our hopes to heaven. Such 
are the mountain cypress, the lofty poplar and the sombre 
pine of the north. The latter, especially, with their dark 
but evergreen foliage, their balsamic fragrance, the strange 
sad sighs that are ever heard in their long boughs, and 
their lofty crowns, reaching to the very clouds, which sue- 

222 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

cessive seasons find unchanged and nothing but death 
causes to vary, remind us of the only source from whence 
comfort comes for our wounded hearts, and lift up our 
eye and our heart to that God who gives death and gives 
life again to those that fear him. 




He spoke of beauty: that the dull 
Saw no divinity in grass, 

Life in dead stone, or spirit in the air/ 


IHE Psalmist says : — " Thou madest man to have do- 

minion over the works of thy hand ; thou hast put 
all things under his feet." And truly, man is the master 
of the world. 

There comes a joyous breeze in freedom through the 
air, and sings its merry songs in rush and reed, or plays 
sportively with branch and briar. But see, man stands 
upon the breezy hill, and catches the light-footed wanderer 
above ; he stops him on his fruitless errand and makes 
him a servant, a slave. The wind can no longer roam at 
will over hill and dale ; he must turn, in restless haste, 
the huge wings of a mill, or he is bound in towering 
sails, and has to drive mighty ships through the impeding 


224 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

There rushes a bright, cheerful spring from its cold 
mountain home down into the plain, and as it leaps over 
rock and root, it dashes its snow-white f6am into the daz- 
zling sunshine, and raises its little anthem of thanks and 
praise at every fall, in every valley. But here, also, the 
master stands in its way and compels it, a child yet, to 
turn the mill-wheel ; or he loads the well-grown river 
with heavily-laden barges, that it must carry from land 
to land to the mighty ocean. 

The fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, and every living 
thing that moveth upon the earth, the trees and the herbs, 
the stones and the metals — they are all slaves and serfs 
of man. Even the lowest, made in the image of God, 
is still master of all the powers of Nature. The South 
Sea islander makes plants support him, and beasts serve 
him; they build his hut on land, and carry him in boats 
over the seas. Savage and inhospitable winter fashions 
the water into clear blocks of ice to build the Esquimaux' 
house; the seal furnishes oil for his lamp, the whale gives 
him ribs for his boat, and heads for his arrows. 

But it is not the strong arm and the skilful hand of 
man that makes him thus master of Creation. His mind 
is the ruler of the world, the true Lord of Nature. It 
makes the sea and the mountain his slaves, so that the 
ice of the pole, and the heat of the tropics must serve him 
as he wills. And when he has mastered all that eye can 
see, and hand can grasp, when the present has nothing 
more to give him, and the future seems to elude his grasp, 
he descends into the past, and raises even the spirits of 
the departed to serve him. 



Man had exhausted the resources which the vegetalilc 
world of our day afforded him ; every herb bearing seed, 
and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree, had been 
to him for meat. But he desired more, and his restless, 
insatiable mind longed for new realms and new powers. 
So he went back into distant ages and exhumed the bodies 
of ancient generations. For animals and plants both, are 
made faithfully to return, to their common mother earth, 
whatever they have taken from her. The beast of the 
field, and even proud man die, and dust returns to dust. 
Plants, also, the first-born children of the earth, must die, 
and return to the bosom of their great mother. But they 
sink only to rise again, or if buried beneath the ruins of 
ages, they preserve, even there, in eternal night, a breath 
of their former vitality, and centuries after, their dead 
bodies become, in the hands of man, once more a source 
of light and life. 

From the western coast of France, vast desert plains' 
stretch far east, through northern Germany and Russia, 
until they are lost in distant and unknown Siberia. The 
traveller shudders, he knows not why, as the boundless 
expanse first strikes his eye. There is no fresh waving 
tree to whisper words of good cheer and pleasant welcome ; 
there is not a hill, " which God delighted to dwell in." 
All is level, covered with brownish-red heather, with the 
golden blossom of the broom and thorny juniper-bushes. 
Only now and then a green marsh relieves the oppressive 
monotony, and grazing herds of cattle give life to the 
scene; but soon again the desolate moor spreads far be- 
yond the horizon in dark, dreary dullness. The air hangs 

22G Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

in gloom over the lifeless swamp; even the moor fowl 
cries as in agony, and the swift swallow, chasing light- 
winged dragon-flies over the rushes, twitters in an un- 
dertone, and utters mournful complaints. Poverty alone 
dwells on the borders of these desolate plains ; low huts 
scarcely venture to raise their turf-roofs a few feet above 
the ground, and the dwellers on marsh and moor show 
in their pale, downcast features, that the clear air of heaven 
but rarely greets them, and that the pure water of high- 
land springs is a luxury unknown. 

Yet, these moors are a world of their own, peopled by 
races of beings, found nowhere else, and furnished with 
plants unknown to other lands. They have their history 
as well as the lofty mountain and the rich valley ; they 
are born, they grow and prosper, they decay and vanish. 

On many a plain, on lofty table-lands, or close to the 
ocean's restless pulse, wherever water gathers, from a 
thousand invisible sources, little pools and miniature lakes 
are formed, which the clayey ground or solid rock beneath 
prevents from reaching their great home in the sea. Upon 
these waters little tiny plants appear, hardly visible con- 
fervse ; they come, man knows not whence, but they mul- 
tiply in amazing haste and soon cover the stagnant pool 
with living green. Of a sudden, however, they are gone ; 
they have sunk down to the bottom. There they form 
layer upon layer ; slowly, indeed, for the naked eye 
measures them only by hundreds of generations; but as 
particles of sand and stone gather in their hidden folds, 
and as the bodies and shells of countless minute animals, 
who found a home in the waters above, are ])uried amidst 



them, they rise year after year. Gradually they afford a 
footing and food for numerous water-worts, in whose moul- 
dering remains mosses and rushes begin to settle. These 
bind their roots firmly, they join hand in hand, and arm 
in arm, until at last they form a soft green cover of peaty 
mould, far and near, over the dark, mysterious waters. 

The older the moor, the firmer and stronger is, of 
course, this turf cover over the brownish pool, that gives 
out a faint but piercing fragrance. Near the sea-shore, 
and in rainy regions, larger quantities of water frequently 
remain between the firm ground and the felt-like cover, 
so that the surface breathes and heaves like the waves 
of the great ocean. In drier countries, heath, hair-grass, 
and even bilberry bushes grow in the treacherous mould. 
But the moisture beneath gnaws constantly at their roots, 
so that they die off, whilst the herb above clings per- 
tinaciously to life, and sends out ever -new shoots — a faint, 
false semblance of life, like the turf on the moor itself, 
in its restless, unstable suspension above the dark-brown 
water beneath. 

This turf-cover, consisting of countless partly decayed 
plants and their closely interwoven roots, is our peat; 
those vegetable masses that have accumulated at the bot- 
tom of the moor are bog-earth, and below them, as the 
oldest layer of all, lies the so-called black peat. As early, 
even, as the thirteenth century, these remnants of minute 
mosses were used as fuel ; but it was not until the six- 
teenth century that the Dutch especially, who know no 
other kind of fuel, devised a systematic mode of making 
these treasures permanently available. Now, the upper turf 

228 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

is, during the dry season, cut out into large square pieces, 
that serve mainly to cover the lowly huts, which the 
dwellers in those regions bury half under ground, and then 
raise a few feet by loosely arranged stones. There they 
live, the most miserable of men upon earth, dark gloom 
all around them, and deeper gloom yet within their cheer- 
less, unlighted hovels. 

If the moor is deeper, ditches are dug to carry off the 
dismal water, and then the lower peat is carried away 
in large pieces to serve as fuel. Often, when it is too 
moist, it has to be kneaded, pressed into form, and then 
carefully to be arranged in large, well-aired sheds, to dry 
and to settle. If water be allowed to stand on the ex- 
cavated moor, the peat is renewed in a few years, and 
may be cut again, though the period varies from twenty 
to two hundred years in different portions of Europe. 

Vast regions of our globe are covered with these rem- 
nants of once bright, blooming flowers. The table-lands 
of the Cordilleras in South America, the boundless plains 
of Siberia, one-tenth of all Ireland, a large portion of Ger- 
many, part of Scotland, Jutland, and Norway — even the 
sides and valleys of the Alps abound with such moors. 
The polar circles are not free from them ; there, also, 
mosses and alga3 still grow, and so closely and thickly 
that they form, as it were, but one great mass of woody 
fibre. Their growth is peculiar ; they add every year new 
shoots to the upper extremities, whilst the lower as con- 
stantly die and change, when dry, into rich humus, but, 
w^hen kept moist, into peat. Thus the flimous Tundra, 
the giant-morass of Siberia, is an almost inexhaustible 



storehouse of this most valuable material. In our own 
United States, it is well known, swamps of enormous extent 
abound in the south, overgrown mostly with cypresses, and 
containing large peat-bogs, into which man can only ven- 
ture at the peril of his life. 

Almost inaccessible in days of yore, haunted by ghastly 
spectres, and illumined only by the treacherous light of 
will-o'the-wisps, these dreary but valuable regions are now 
cut through by railways and canals. For miles and miles 
the traveller in Europe passes through the midst of count- 
less gigantic heaps of peat. Here and there, miserable 
huts are half hidden ; stunted, squalid children, play around 
them in dogged silence; in the distance a cross, formed 
of white birch poles, rises high in the air, and before it, 
lies prostrate their mother, buried in anxious prayer. Be- 
yond it, you see long rows of laborers, strong, swarthy 
men, breast high in the swamp, digging with eager haste, 
whilst others cany huge masses, well-balanced on their 
heads, to the drying-house. 

Here, also, the power of the small in the great house- 
hold of Nature is strikingly illustrated. Tiny conferva) 
and barely-visible swamp-mosses form vast moors, the fuel 
of nations, giving bread to thousands, regions fuH of won- 
ders and mysterious charms. A diminutive water-lentil 
(Lenna trisulca) is the main laborer in this unknown and 
unseen process. With its little, dark-green leaves, it lives 
entirely under water ; only when about to blossom, it 
rises for awhile into the air, and then sinks forever to the 
bottom, there to be changed into peat. It forms closely- 
woven, thick layers, filled with sand and snails, and even 

230 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

trees. When confervce alone are at work, the peat lies 
in the shape of thin, paper-like leaves, as if year after 
year a new generation had lain down to rest on the corpses 
of the preceding season. Small streams of water, flowing 
under ground, complete the decay of the vegetable matter, 
and consolidate the whole, till it becomes blended in one 
confused mass. 

Dark and dismal the green turf stretches far away, as 
far as eye can reach. It knows neither spring nor sum- 
mer. Below is the dark, unfathomed abyss. Here and 
there fierce gusts of wind, or strange powers from below, 
have torn the gloomy shroud asunder, and the dark, black 
waters stare at you, like the despairing eye of the dying 
sinner. Even the bright sun of heaven cannot light up 
the haunted mirror — its golden face looks pale and leaden. 
No fish swims in the inhospitable water ; no boat passes 
swiftly from shore to shore. Whatever has life and dreads 
death, flees the treacherous moor. Woe to the unfortunate 
man who misses the narrow path ! A single step amiss, 
and he sinks into the gulf ; the green turf closes over 
him and drowns the gurgling of the waters and the anxious 
cry of the victim. 

Far, far down in the depths of the moor there lies 
many a secret of olden times. Below the grim, ghastly 
surface, below the waters, below the black remnants of 
countless plants, lie the sad memorials of ages unknown 
to the history of man. Huge trees stand upright, and 
their gigantic roots rest upon the crowns of still older 
forest-giants ! In the inverted oaks of Murten Moor, in 
Switzerland, many see the famous oak-woods that Charle- 



magne caused to be cut down, now, more than a thou- 
sand years ago. For centuries the moors have hid in 
their silent bosom the gigantic works of ancient Bome, 
and posterity has gazed with awe and wonder at the mas- 
terly roads and massive bridges, like those built of per- 
ishable w^ood by Germanicus when he passed from Holland 
into the valley of the Weser. Far, in the deep, lie buried 
the stone hatchets and flint arrow-heads of Frisians and 
Cheruski, by the side of the copper kettle and the iron 
helmet of the Roman soldier. A Phoenician skiff was 
found of late, and alongside of it a boat laden with bricks. 
The skeletons of antediluvian animals rest there peaceably 
by the corpses of ancient races with sandals on their feet 
ind the skins of animals around their naked bodies. Hun- 
dreds of brave English horsemen, who sought an honorable 
death in the battle of Solway, were swallowed up, horse 
and men, by the insatiable moor. And in years bygone, 
a Danish King Harold, called the Blue Tooth, allured with 
foul treachery a fair princess of Norway, Gunhilde, to Jut- 
land. She came, and she vanished from the memory of 
man. History had forgotten her, tradition even began to 
fade; but a peat-bog opened its long-closed lips, and ac- 
cused, late but loud, the bloody king of his wicked deed. 
The poor princess was found, far below the peat, strangled 
and tied to a post, where her merciless foe had buried 
her, as he thought, forever, in the abyss. 

It is a strange and most melancholy charm which these 
low chambers of death have for the careful observer. 
Where once gigantic animals dwelt, and tropical plants 
flourished in splendor, where broad roads passed through 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the land, or forests stood in ancient pride ; where trade 
and commerce prospered, and richly laden vessels sailed 
from port to port — there now the dead moor covers all 
life and spreads its dread winding-sheet alike over the 
deepest sea and the richest valley. 

Even in our day, moors grasp with their death-hand 
at living nature around them. Here and there a lofty 
tree still rises from the dismal depth ; in mountain valleys 
even groves and forests sometimes break the sad monotony. 
But in the unequal struggle the moor is sure to win the 
battle. Like foul disease, the hungry moor-water gnaws 
at the roots of noble trees. It softens the ground, it 
changes it into morass, and the proud giants of the forest 
fall one by one, before the dark, invisible foe beneath 
them. They resist long and bravely; but their roots are 
drowned with the abominable liquid, their hold is loosened, 
their leaves turn yellow and crisp ; the wintry storm 
comes in fury, and the noble trees sink powerless into 
the grave at their feet. The struggle may be marked, 
even now, in all its stages. Thus, in the famous Black 
Forest of Germany, there rise on many a breezy hill 
glorious old fir-trees and graceful, silvery birches. Only 
a few yards beyond, however, the eye meets but with 
sorry, stunted dwarfs, trees crippled before they reached 
their height, old before their time, and weak already, in 
the days of their youth. Their crowns are withered, their 
branches hung with weird, weeping mosses. Then the trees 
become still fewer and smaller ; low, deformed trunks, with 
twisted branches alone survive. At last, these also dis- 
appear, and the dead quiet of the moor, with its humble 



heath, broken only here and there by a dying bush, or 
a lowly hillock, reigns alone and triumphant. 

Even the sea has its moors and its bogs. When the 
tide recedes from the coasts of France and England, vast 
hidden morasses become visible. Eor miles and miles 
they stretch into the sea, these wide oceanic meadows. 
Engulfed plains, sunken marshes, where thousands of years 
ago a joyous world lived and loved, are now the home 
of fishes and muscles. Often a tempest brings large tracts 
of this watery peat to the shore, or a fisherman drags 
huge pieces of bog from the deep. 

Stranger still is it, when the air enclosed in the fine, firm 
texture of matted roots and fibres, buoys a bog and raises 
♦it high up into the air. Then large pieces are torn from 
their ancient resting places, and are carried about like 
floating islands, at the mercy of winds, until the waves 
rend them into fragments, or the water they imbibe makes 
them too heavy, so that they sink once more clown to 
their proper home. Such islands of peat have been found 
large enough to afford pasture for a hundred head of 
cattle ; but a few years destroy their form, and they dis- 
appear without leaving a trace behind them. Near St. 
Omer, in France, these islands are left to roam freely, 
during summer wherever they list, but in winter they are 
tied fast to the shore. Still others bear trees, even on 
their surface ; and both Russia and Chili have such strange 
vagrants, formed of sea-grass, even in clear, transparent 

Rarely only, the moor despises the slow progress of un- 
dermining and silently engulfing living nature, and breaks, 

234 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

in wild fury, through its long quiet. The putrefying waters 
and the fermenting masses of decayed vegetation, beneath 
the closely woven turf, develop gases which then raise the 
plain into hills and change the whole aspect of the land- 
scape. When this force is very great, or when rocks and 
masses of earth impede its convulsive movement, the swol- 
len bog suddenly opens with hoarse thunder, and a black 
torrent of foul, hideous mire pours forth with overwhelm- 
ing violence. Thus it happened in 1821, at TuUamore, 
Ireland, when a huge bog, several acres in extent, broke 
loose, and travelled for nine miles, over a broken country. 
It laid waste everything it met with in its course. Houses 
were levelled with the ground at its touch; trees torn up 
by the roots ; the fields were covered and the valleys^ 
filled with bog. Thousands of men were summoned to 
arrest its destructive march ; dams were built, and walls 
were erected, but all in vain. The torrent rested not in 
its fatal course, until its fury was exhausted, and silence 
once more brooded on the black moor. 

Far in the deepest deep of our mother earth lie still 
older mummies of plants, that flourished and withered long 
before the gates of heaven were opened and God's bow 
was set in the cloud. They date back to the mysterious 
days when the hardly formed globe, still incandescent, was 
but loosely held together by a thin crust of primary rocks. 
Below them the pent up fires of the vasty deep glowed 
and raged in untamed fury ; above them hung a hot, stifling 
air, and huge masses of heavily laden clouds. Rain, fierce, 
incessant rain, poured down upon the chaotic scene ; here 
and there the slight cover burst, volcanoes rose, continents 



greeted first the light of heaven, and islands sank, to l)e 
seen no more. All the powers of nature were unchained ; 
the earth was one vast battle field, on which the elements 
fought for the empire of the world. It was in those hours 
of gigantic strife, and, amidst the thousand thunders of 
a quaking earth and a threatening heaven, that huge forests 
were buried in the bosom of the earth, to wait in patience 
for the day of their resurrection. 

Upon the first islands that rose out of the gurgling, 
struggling waters, when land and water were parted by 
the Most High, there grew forests of gigantic forms, of 
horse-tails and club-mosses, full of beauty and luxuriant 
vigor, but they bloomed and blossomed not. Sigillaria 
gently waved their lofty crowns on their slender curiously 
marked trunks. In the pride of their grandeur, rising high 
above the lowly bushes around them, they ranged them- 
selves in copses and forests. Parasite ferns fluttered in 
the restless winds, like green pennants, from column-shaped, 
gigantic canes, whilst gentler breezes whispered sweet se- 
crets to the graceful rushes along the banks of intermin- 
able marshes, and stigmarias painted the quiet surface of 
peaceful inlets, with the beauteous image of their graceful 
foliage. Algse and mosses grew in pleasing forms on rock 
and stone, and struck their tiny roots deep into cleft and 

Where now Spitzbergen and Greenland, Melville and 
Bear Islands rise in the splendor of eternal snow and ice, 
tall grasses were then rocking and dreaming of the won- 
drous time that would come when Man should be born 
after the image of God. Trees, high and strong, bushes 

236 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

of strange, fantastic shapes, unbounded forests of colossal 
reeds and flags, overshadowed the shores of the dark ocean, 
encircled with dense night, large, ever-silent marshes, and 
crowned in graceful groups the table-lands of these islands. 
But silence brooded over them all. As no flower ever 
graced their lofty columns, so no bird ever sang in their 
branches, no deer ever rested in peace under their shadow. 
The sea alone, the great sea, had its life. Here the huge, 
flat head of a monstrous lizard rose heavily from under 
the roots of a mighty fern; there a shark of unmeasured 
dimensions shot, like a flash of lightning, through the 
turbid flood ; polypi, snails of quaint shape, and muscles 
resplendent in brightest colors, crowded the shallow estu- 
aries. A thousand curious forms, no longer found upon 
earth, peopled the silent waters, and generation after gen- 
eration passed away, unseen by man and unknown for 
countless ages to come. 

They rose, they lived, and they died in utter silence and 
darkness. They returned dust to dust, or they sank into 
the bottomless ocean. Now the fary of fiery volcanoes 
would bury whole forests under masses of burning por- 
phyry and basalt — then the sea itself would rise in solemn 
majesty, and, racing upwards, fall upon ancient woods, 
breaking down young and old, high and low, and leaving 
behind it but one vast mass of sand and stone, under 
which it had hid all their glorious beauty. Where neither 
fire nor water came, with giants' power, to destroy, the 
huge ferns died a slow and silent death. One by one 
they would sink, weary of life and worn out by the fierce 
storm all around them, until gentle rains came, and with 



tender sympathy, spread a pall of white sand and bright 
colored stones over their buried bodies. A new race 
sprang up from the exuberant bosom of nature ; it also 
was laid low, and buried under massive rocks and green 
turf^ and a new forest rose, phoenix like, from its ashes. 
And again and again the furious tempest swept along, 
and covered them with dense layers of sand, or heaped 
rocks over their grave, as if he w^ould fain have silenced 
forever the revengeful, whisper of antediluvian forests. 
There are places on earth, where one hundred and fifty 
of such succesf've generations may distinctly be counted! 

But tenderly as nature had covered their dead bodies, 
still their race was not yet run, their purpose but half 
fulfilled. Tree by tree, and herb by herb, they lay peace- 
fully in their grave. The storm sighed no longer in their 
branches, the upheaving earth shook not their lofty trunks. 
Warmly imbedded they slept in their quiet chambers. 
Thousands of years passed, and their rest was unbroken, 
their very existence unknown. No human eye had seen 
them in their prime ; they had died and sunk into their 
grave long before man dwelt in the world. But now, 
after centuries, man came and made his way through vast 
layers of clay and firm strata of rock ; he descended into 
the deep of the earth, to exhume the huge forests that 
had lain there buried since the days of creation. He 
brought them forth, the corpses of long forgotten plants, 
to the light of a sun they had never seen before ; he 
made their remains to work for him — his busiest servants, 
his most efficient slaves. It wa3 thus that the ruins of 

238 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the past became the masters of the present. These flow- 
erless fu'stlings of creation were made to rule and con- 
trol, at the bidding of the children of this day, wind and 
water, space and time. The light of earliest ages, safely 
buried in the bosom of our mother earth, w^as called to 
life once more, and made to shine bright and brilliant 
over land and sea. 

In the lofty mountains of Peru, man found the black, 
shining mummies ; far from under the ocean's bed, he 
brought to light the same mysterious plants, the same 
gigantic fern-trees. A new book was opened to him; the 
coal-fields of the earth became chronicles of ages unknown 
to history or tradition. Leaf after leaf was unfolded, and 
not a letter was found to be effaced. Whatever had had 
life upon land or in water, was carefully preserved, in 
image or substance, in the long hidden treasury. Not a 
plant was missing, not a leaf was wanting to rebuild the 
wondrous world of earliest ages. The dark night of deep 
mines unfolded an incredible richness and splendor of ve- 
getable forms. As if with gorgeous tapestry, their walls 
and ceiling were found covered with graceful garlands of 
unknown creepers. The rich tracery of delicate leaves and 
tendrils is marked in deep black on the lighter surface 
of the surrounding rock. Lofty trees stand, as they stood 
countless ages ago, in all the luxury of their massive 
trunks, their wide spreading branches and beautiful foliage. 
Fossil trunks have been found, whose year-rings told of 
an age of more than eight centuries! Palms and tropical 
trees alternate with the pines and poplars of northern 



regions ; and there, too, sleeps the animal world of those 
days. Here is the big lizard, not one of her tiny scales 
wanting ; there is the colossal shark, in all his huge dimen- 
sions. They are all there, every plant and every animal, 
uninjured by the unsparing tooth of time. Not a line 
is effaced, not a letter is illegible in this great book of 

Man soon determined to employ the new power thus 
granted him ; but, although Marco Polo tells us that the 
Chinese used coals as far back as his own time (1270) 
Europe did not employ them until about a hundred years 
ago. Then, however, began the reign of the new agent 
in man's rule over the earth, and the strange spectacle 
is presented in some places, that the mummies of long- 
forgotten trees, reared in regions once tropical, but now 
ice-bound, must serve to warm the houses of men and 
to force tropical fruits in northern climates. Now, coal 
as fuel, drives the railway train and the steamer ; it works 
in every factory, it burns on every hearth ; it is to Eng- 
land more precious than gold and costly jewels. 

Its gases, the terror of the poor miner who but too 
often falls a victim of the terrible "fire-damps," have been 
changed from a death-bringing enemy into a most useful 
servant. To drive them out fro?n the mines, they were 
at first conveyed in tubes to the outer air. By accident 
it was found that they could ignite, and from this simple 
attempt to effect an escape for a nuisance, man derived 
the light which now rivals the noonday-brightness, and gives 
peace and security even to overgrown cities. 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

All this, and much more, we owe to the long buried 
mummies of plants that lived, we know not how many 
ages ago. Truly, we see, as yet, but "as if in a glass, 
darkly," and His wondrous works are hidden to our dim 

Unknown Tongues. 



** All the earth shall sing unto Thee ; they shall sing to Thy name." 

TT was a dark and dismal night when the brave Almeida's 
ship stood off and on the coast of the fragrant island 
of Ceylon. With a stout heart and a bold hand he had 
sailed into seas unknown. Day after day, the smooth, 
glassy surface had shown him only his own vessel's 
graceful rigging and quietly rocking hulk, until famine 
began to shed pallor on the face of the bravest of his fol- 
lowers ; and his own proud Portuguese soul felt terrors 
creeping over it, and despair even menaced life. So they 
prayed to their saints and their God, and He heard them. 
The waves curled in silvery crests, the huge sails hailed 
the coming breeze, and at last the sweetest of sweet sounds 
on the wide ocean, the gentle wash of the waters 
up the ship's bow, greeted the ear of the anxious 
mariner. x\t night dark mountains rose on the far hori- 
zon, and " Land !" shouted the exulting watch from the 

242 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

mast-head. And, as dusky shadows covered the sea, fresh, 
sweet odors came from the distant island. Bright fires^ — 
oh, how welcome a sight ! — were seen rising ; and even the 
voices of men were heard in strange, unintelligible accents. 
But what was that voice, which, all of a sudden, swelled 
on the air, and like magic filled their minds with unutter- 
able sorrow? Now it seemed to rise from the dark depth 
by their side, and now it came far and faint as from a 
distant w^orld. At one moment, it broke in fierce, fearful 
cries, and then again it sank to such melancholy complain- 
ing that anguish seized on their souls, and tears trickled 
down their rugged and weather-beaten faces. They crossed 
themselves ; they fell on their knees ; and even their fearless 
leader implored the Lord on high, to spare their lives and to 
guard their souls against the power of Satan ! 

Often were those deep, mournful sounds heard in those 
distant waters, and many were the accounts that science 
and superstition gave of the fearful "Voice of the Devil." 
Or was it, as some fondly believed, even in our own age, 
the mysterious utterance of the Spirit of Nature, dwelling 
in our globe and in all the vast realms of creation ? Later 
days brought other explanations. There were enormous 
gullies there, it was said, and narrow passes cut through the 
gigantic mountains, so that the rushing of winds and the 
roaring of waters, played on as an iEolian harp of colossal 

Our day has, at last, torn the veil of superstition and fancy, 
and replaced a tale of impossible wonders by facts of even 
more marvellous beauty. "There lives, near the shores of 
Ceylon, a large and most gorgeous shellfish. And when the 

Unknown Tongues. 


light of the moon rests dreaming on the bosom of the ocean, 
and gentle breezes, laden with fragrance, come cooling and 
calming from distant homes, it opens its bright-colored lips, 
and pours forth its mild, melancholy music, that the breakers 
on shore are heard no lons^er, and the heart of man is 

It was surely not said in vain, nor was it a mere figure of 
speech, when the Psalmist exclaimed: "All thy works 
praise thee, oh Lord !" Tor all creation unites in the vast 
hymn of praise that daily rises to His throne on high. The 
morning stars ever sing in the heavens, the mountains echo 
back the voice of thunders : the earthquake replies to the 
roar of the tempest; and even the tiny insect, in its mazy 
dance, adds a feeble note that is heard by Him. 

Thus we have a thousand voices around us, sending up 
their great, never-ceasing anthem. But proud man has little 
heeded, heretofore, the countless accents of nature. Infant 
nations hear them and comprehend them not; the higher 
races listen to their own words only, and their ear is closed 
to the humbler voices around them. Thus they are truly 
Unknown Tongues. Quite recent researches, however, have 
thrown some faint light on this strange and attractive province 
of knowledge. 

As the unfortunate child, that is born deaf, can neither 
hear the sweet voice of its mother, nor learn the mystery of 
language, so animals also cannot have speech unless they 
have hearing. For ages, all the lower tribes were curtly 
classed among dumb creation. Mollusks, it was said, had 
neither eyes nor ears, the cuttlefish only excepted ; their life 
was a mere dream ; they were doomed to eternal silence. 


244 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

Now, we have learned to admire the beautiful structure of 
their eyes ; now we know that they hear, and with an ear 
not only open to sounds, but able to distinguish the depth 
and volume of voices. In some shellfish, the ear is a marvel 
of beauty ; and even the lowest have at least one or more 
tiny chambers, in which to catch the faintest sound, and 
a special nerve to carry it to their imperfect mind. A 
thunder-clap frightens the lobster to death ; and the pirates 
of the north used to threaten the fishermen with the firing 
of a gun, which would kill their rich freight in a moment 
and render it unfit for market. 

Locusts hear each other, for their strange call invites the 
female, and is always accepted. Ants, also, are not devoid 
of such a sense. When the termites are busy building their 
gigantic houses, watchmen are seen to stand from distance to 
distance. Every two minutes, with truly marvellous ap- 
preciation of time, they strike their tiny tongue against the 
hollow wall. Instantly a loud hissing is heard, uttered by 
the laborers all over the vast building ; and, with double 
zeal and renewed vigor, they work in passage and chamber. 
The proud soldier-sentinel looks carefully around, to see 
that all are duly employed, waits his appointed time, and 
then repeats the curious warning. Bees are lovers of 
music, and know the voice of man. Huber, who, though 
blind, knew the strange people better than we who have 
eyes, tells us how they listen to the command of the " bee- 
father," and follow him wherever he calls them. This 
fjict is well known in the East, where the owner draws 
them thus from their hives into the fields, and leads them 
back again by a hiss or a whistle. Hence, "it shall come 

NKNOWN Tongues. 


to pass, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly and for the bee 
that is in the land of Assyria." 

How easily spiders are made to know the voice of their 
master, is flimiliar to all, from many a sad prisoner's tale. 
When the great and brilliant Lauzun was held in captivity, 
his only joy and comfort was a friendly spider. She came 
at his call ; she tool<: her food from his finger, and well un- 
derstood his word of command. In vain did jailors and 
soldiers try to deceive his tiny companion. She would not 
obey their voices, and refused the tempting bait from their 
hand. Here, then, was an ear not only, but a keen power 
of distinction. The despised little animal listened with 
sweet affection, and knew how to discriminate between not 
unsimilar tones ! So it was with the friend of the pat- 
riot, Quatremere d'ljonville, who paid, with captivity, for 
the too ardent love of his country. He also had tamed 
spiders, and taught them to come at his call. But the 
little creatures were not only useful to him, but to the 
nation to .which he belonged. For, when the French 
invaded Holland, the prisoner managed to send them a 
message that the inundated and now impassable country 
would soon be frozen over so that they would be able 
to march over the ice-bridged swamps and lakes, though 
spiders, true barometers as they are, had taught him to 
read, in their queer habits, the signs of approaching 
weather. The frost came, and with it the French ; Hol- 
land was taken and the lucky prophet set free. The 
spiders, alas ! were forgotten. 

Even the "hateful toad" has been the captive's friend 
and companion, and shown itself endowed with a fine ear 

246 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

and remarkable talents. They come out of the dark 
night of their holes, when their self-chosen master's voice 
is heard. They take flies from his hand; but, what is 
the strangest of all, they actually learn to measure time; 
for more than one well-authenticated instance speaks of 
their having appeared only at stated times, when the 
jailor was absent and all was safe. 

Vile, venomous serpents and their kin have an ear as 
subtle as their tongue, and show a curious love of sweet 
melodies and gentle words of affection. The hooded 
snake, as many of us have seen in the East Indies, is 
fierce and furious, when first captured. But the so-called 
conjuror rouses h«r wrath still more by blows and threats ; 
the next moment, however, the blandest words woo and 
win her heart, and weave a charm which even the crafty 
snake cannot resist. Anon he raises his hand as if to 
strike ; she follows it with wistful eye and playing tongue. 
It is a sight of strange, irresistible beauty, this combat 
between man and serpent. Each watches with intense 
attention — the dusky Indian ready to strike with brutal 
force, the cunning reptile waving in graceful curves, rais- 
ing the strange spectacle-mark that surrounds her glitter- 
ing eyes, and gathering venom for the fatal bite. But 
man remains the master. Now with soothing words, and 
now with soft caresses, he tames her fierce temper. Then 
he calls in the aid of music, and soon the animal raises 
her head as if in a rapture of enjoyment, and in a short 
time learns to weave quick mazes in the air, to twist 
and twine in most beauteous lines, and follow the master's 
hand wherever it bids her. Pliny tells us of sons of the 

Unknown Tongues. 


African desert, who, with their eyes' glances alone, could 
rule over serpents. That race of men is lost ; but many 
a Nubian may be seen at the upper falls of the Nile, who 
can imitate, with surprising precision, the call of the rep- 
tiles, and tempt them to come forth from every corner 
and crevice. 

Vipers, also, and adders, are neither deaf nor dumb, 
and cannot help listening to the voice of temptation. 
They were, it is well known, formerly much used in medi- 
cine; and the precious theriak, known even at the time 
of Nero, and still manufactured in Venice, Holland, and 
France, consists mainly of the flesh of vipers. So, poor, 
persecuted animals, they are caught in all countries, and — 
who would have thought if? — almost always by means 
of their acute hearing. In Italy, grim, swarthy men, of 
gipsy cast, are seen to stand in the centre of large hoops, 
and then to indulge in strange, fanciful whistlings. After 
a while, an adder is seen gently to glide up ; another, 
and still another, appears, no one knows whence ; and all 
gazing with glittering eye at the quaint musician, raise 
their spotted bodies up against the magic hoop. The de- 
ceiver takes them, one by one, with a pair of tongs, and 
thrusts them into a bag that hangs on his shoulder. The 
poor, deluded vipers are then carried to town, and kept 
by druggist and doctor, or sent in boxes, filled with saw- 
dust, alive all over the world. The French, of all nations 
on earth the most cruel to animals, have a still more 
wicked way of catching adders. They take the first they 
obtain, or any other snake they can seize upon, and, 
throwing it into a kettle of boiling oil, there roast it 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

alive. The fearful hissing of the tortured creature is 
heard by its kindred ; they come from under sunny banks, 
from the low furze and scrubby bramble bushes, and as 
they approach they are eagerly seized with hands defended 
by leather gloves. Some have said — men of Maine, we 
surmise — that it serves them right, because they are very 
intemperate reptiles. Naturalists — wine-bibbers themselves 
— have placed vessels filled with wine under hedges and 
near piles of stones ; the thirsty vipers come from all 
sides, and, soon getting drunk, fall into the hands of their 

Fish have no visible ear, it is said, and no external 
avenue for sounds from a distance. Still, they hear with 
great acuteness. On the continent of Europe, few castles 
and villas are without the favorite pond, and its broad- 
backed carp and speckled trout. They all learn to obey 
the ringing of a bell, and come in eager haste to seize 
the morsels that young and old are fond of seeing them 
catch. Lacepede even speaks of some carps of venerable 
age that were kept in the gardens of the Tuileries for 
more than a hundred years. They would come not only 
at the usual signal, but actually knew the names that 
were given them, and rose to the surface as they were 
called. They were, however, haughty and proud, for they 
listened only to those they loved, and in vain were sweet 
words, in vain even tempting morsels, offered by stran- 
gers. The royal pensioners disdained to receive alms ; 
they took only the crumbs that fell from the table of 
their master, the monarch. But even plebeians among 
fishes hear ; and it is not the fastidious carp only that 

UNKNOWN Tongues. 


cannot bear the grating sound of sawmills, and has his 
nerves shaken by the firing of guns. Sturgeons also are 
frightened by loud cries, and thus driven into the fisher- 
man's net; and the bleak-fish detests a drum so that he 
rather surrenders than endure its abominable rolling. 
An Italian has, of late, proved in a brilliant manner, that 
fishes can not only hear, but actually obey and execute 
orders, that, in fact, they show m.uch higher endowments 
than they have heretofore been thought to possess. IJe 
has tamed a variety of fishes, from the humble tench to 
the gorgeous goldfish of China, and as he bids them, they 
come and go, they rise or sink, and display their rich, 
ever-changing colors. Nay, they perform a miniature dra- 
ma : a pike seizes a trout, and lets it go or brings it up 
to the surface, as the master commands with his voice. 

It needs no proof to establish the hearing of higher an- 
imals; but even the low^est among them, and those that 
are almost mute, show their appreciation of sounds when 
carefully watched. The shapeless hedgehog, when tamed, 
will uncoil at the word of his owner, and the grotesque 
seal raises its uncouth head, with such beautiful eyes, high 
out of the water, to listen to music on shore. It loves 
to hear gentle voices, and is grateful for kind words. Of 
all things else, they bind it firmest to its master, and call 
forth its warmest affections. The tiny mouse, that finds a 
home in the hut of the Alpine herdsman, becomes there 
so tame, that it points its silky ears and approaches at 
the whistle of the Senner, when at night he returns to 
his meal and his rest. Even with us, it has been known 
to come timidly out of its corner, to listen to a song. 

250 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

The ancients say much of the delight with which the 
grazing herd listens to the flute of the shepherd. The 
Swiss, on his meadows and Alps, also knows full well how 
exquisite is the ear of his magnificent cattle. There, in 
far greater freedom than in the narrow valley below, in 
the pure, bracing air of lofty mountains, with a clear, 
blue sky above, and rich, fragrant pasture around them, 
all their senses are sharper, all their instincts more fully 
developed. The leading cow, with the largest of bells, 
is not unconscious of her honor and station. She shows 
it in her more stately gait, she affects a proud and haughty 
carriage. Woe to the bold intruder who should dare to 
precede her ! But woe also to the wanderer from another 
herd! She knows, and they all know, in an instant, the 
tone of a bell that belongs not to their set ; and, with 
eager curiosity, often with savage hatred, they run to 
meet the stranger, and show her no mercy. But oh ! the 
grief, when the bell is taken from her! As upon leav- 
ing the stable of her home, or her o\^ti favorite pasture 
high on the mountain, so when she has to part with her 
love and her pride, she will weep bitter tears ; and many 
are the instances of cows that have died when deprived 
of their harmonious ornament. 

Some animals, on the other hand, detest certain sounds. 
The Sophist Acteon, in his seventeen books on the nature 
of animals, speaks of the strong aversion Greek wolves 
had to the flute, and tells the oft-repeated story of Phy- 
tochares, the musician, who saved his life from the fangs 
of a hungry pack by playing, with heroic perseverance, 
on that instrument. The Far West of our own day has 

Unknown Tongues. 

the same account, only, here it is a modern "fiddle," and 
the poor owner is caught in a cabin surrounded by fierce 
wolves, mad from starvation. He plays, and they listen 
with horror ; he rests for a moment, and they are ready 
to rush upon him. High on a rafter, at last, sits the suf- 
ferer, playing through the dark hours of night. String 
after string has broken, his arm is tired, his hands are 
benumbed. But, just as the last string snaps, as his hand 
sinks powerless at his side, and, with exulting yells and 
glaring eyes, the blood-thirsty host leap upwards, the bright 
light of day breaks through the forest, and the wolves, 
true children of the night, flee in terror. Even the fierce 
lion, it is said, cannot bear the cock's crowing, and, like 
the great Wallenstein, dreads it more than all things 
earthly. Of the horse, we are taught that 

**At the shrill trumpet's sound he pricks Ms ear," 


"At the clash of arms, his ear afar 
Drinks the deep sound and vibrates to the war." 

Who does not know the account of the Libyan mares, 
that could only be milked when tamed by soft music, 
and of the horses of the Sybarites, that had been taught to 
dance after pleasing melodies, and then, when bearing 
their masters into battle, suddenly heard, in the enemy's 
ranks, the well-remembered sounds, and instantly set to 
dancing instead of fighting? The same love of music 
has been more harmlessly employed in comparatively 
modern times. The eccentric Lord Holland, of the reign 
of William III., used to give his horses a weekly concert 
in a covered gallery, specially erected for the purpose. 

252 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

He maintained that it cheered their hearts and improved 
their temper, and an eye-witness says that they seemed 
to be greatly delighted therewith. 

In the elephant and the camel, this sense is, probably 
most strikingly developed. Whole books have been writ- 
ten on the marvellous talents of the former, and wonders 
have been told of the great effect that music has on his 
temper. Sweet, gentle melodies move him to caresses; 
loud, powerful strains rouse his passions even to uncon- 
trollable fury. The camel has been less fortunate. Still, 
it is never beaten by its owner, whether it toils panting 
through the deep, hot sand of the desert, or shivers, 
sewed up in blankets, in the icy regions of Siberia. At 
home it is, at worst, only scolded ; on the journey, it is 
controlled by words, to which the pressure of the foot 
on the neck, or a gentle touch with a rod, only serve as 
accent or emphasis. The Arab, a true lover of animal 
creation — the pig excepted — entertains his camel with 
music, with songs, and with fairy tales. Often and often 
they may be seen, travelling in the dead of night, gliding 
along like spectres in the moonlight, or bearing torches 
on their packs, which cast strange flickering lights on 
the dismal waste. Their heads on high, their long necks 
balancing slowly to and fro, they move carefully and yet 
swiftly, sometimes thousands in number. Nothing is heard 
but the faint rustling of the sand, as it grates under their 
soft feet, and the plaintive sound of the Arab's voice. He 
is overpowered by weariness, or dreams of his home near 
bright waters, where the palm-tree casts a cooling shadow. 
The camel lags and lingers — it stops. Then the roused 

Unknown Tongues. 


Bedouin draws his reed-pipe from the folds of his turban, 
and, sharp and shrill, its notes are heard far into the sol- 
itude; while the camel raises its ungainly head, and, with 
enlivened step and rapid motion, moves forward through 
the desert. 

Birds alone, and especially singing birds, have a gen- 
uine ear for music. As the eye may see, and yet not 
be able to distinguish colors, so the ear of most animals 
hears, but cannot discern the depth and volume of tone. 
But birds are the true musicians of the animal kingdom. 
They have, what many men lack, a genuine talent to learn 
and appreciate musical notes and melodies. You sing, 
and they will repeat, bar after bar ; others listen with 
eager attention to a hand-organ, and, little by little, learn 
whole tunes ; the ablest of all even imitate the songs and 
voices of others. 

Not all animals, however, that have an ear, can speak. 
Language, even in its humblest form, is a gift vouchsafed 
to the few and the privileged. Still, animals are dumb 
only in a general way ; they all have, at least, a language 
of instinct. By this they can make themselves under- 
stood by their own race and by their enemies. Even 
the lowest among them, that have not a trace of lungs, 
must have some gesture to convey their friendly or hos- 
tile meaning. Poor as it is, no doubt, and entirely as it 
escapes our eye, this language suffices. Animals endowed 
with horns, teeth, feet, or antennae, speak by these means; 
how eloquent is the dog when he shows his teeth, and 
how sure of being understood the ox, when he lowers his 
formidable horns. 

254 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

Clearer far, though still only in gesture, is the language 
of others. Their eye speaks to the careful observer, as 
clearly as the eye of man, of their innermost feelings ; 
their whole carriage, the play of their features, the ges- 
tures of their limbs, are full of unmistakable expression. 
Here, as in man, we observe a beautiful harmony be- 
tween the bodily frame, and the spirit that dwells in it. 
This they read, unconscious but unerring, in others also. 
The dog, taught by his constant intercourse with us, sees 
in our mien and gesture, at once, whether he pleases or 
not ; the horse, also, can learn to appreciate a frowning 
brow or a kindly face. They are infallible in this, per- 
fect as in all that comes from nature directly. Their in- 
stinct never errs, as the infant's pure mind judges far 
more correctly than the troubled mind of the old and 
experienced. Even the wildest of carnivorous beasts per- 
ceive, by these means, in man a higher spiritual power. 
The lion reads in his eye the consciousness of his supe- 
riority, and shrinks frgm it with shy submission. But woe 
to that man whose heart should fail him, who but for a 
moment forgets that he is master of all things living on 
earth ! The lion, at once, feels himself the better and 
stronger of the two, and his blood-thirsty instinct regains 
its supremacy. And as they read the m.ysterious language 
of features, so they express it. There is no hypocrisy 
in the animal's face. It would be a sad error, indeed, 
to fancy that there was nothing to read in look, mien and 
gesture of animals, simply because, to us, it is an unkno\vn 
tongue. We cannot even distinguish individuals of our 
own kind. To the white man of Europe, all blacks look 

Unknown Tongues. 


alike, and, at first sight, notiiing strikes the inexperienced 
traveller so much as the apparent similarity of eastern 
nations. Who of us can read temper or health in the 
faces of a thousand sheep ? and, yet, the shepherd knows 
every one by unfailing signs, and is struck, at a glance, 
by a change of expression. We are apt to forget, besides, 
that there is among animals no disguise of features. We 
all know, in an instant, an intelligent dog by his eye and 
his gestures. Then, our face is smooth and tender beyond 
all parts of the body, that of animals is covered with hair, 
and, although we may see a dog move his lips to a smile, 
and his eye most plainly shed tears, but little can be read 
in his dark, hairy countenance. The blood may come 
and go as quickly as the crimson blush on our cheek ; 
he may " turn up his nose," and " frown with indigna- 
tion" without our seeing any trace of it. 

Man's superiority in this language is great, but it is 
artificial. He is independent of the body, which the an- 
imal is not. Hunger may sorely try him, and anger 
devour his heart : yet he can suppress every sign of his 
want and his passion. On the other hand, he can exhibit 
feelings which are not there ; the actor expresses a feigned 
condition of soul ; the courtier, even, represents feelings the 
very opposite of those that actually move him. 

Still, animals even may develop this humblest and sim- 
plest language. They resemble the infant, that, in early 
days, learns to understand the mother's loving look, that 
cries for food, and soon smiles, in return for caresses, or 
laughs in its child-like enjoyment. There is little but 
fierce temper in the mustang's hairy face — there is a world 

256 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

of feeling in the thorough-bred' s well-cut countenance. The 
cur of the Turk shrinks, howling, from the stern glance 
of man, and snarls and snaps at his enemy — the intelli- 
gent spaniel has an eye beaming with affection, and speaks 
a language of gestures as clear and distinct as that of 
actors in pantomime. Who has ever forgotten the touch- 
ing tribute paid by blind Homer to the faithful dog of 
Ulysses? Forgotten by all that loved and served him, 
disguised by the great Athene herself, he returns to his 
home, and wanders, unknown, among his friends and his 
kindred. But, as he speaks m the yard to Eumseus, the 
lame and emaciated friend of his youth, his own beloved 
Argus hears the voice of his master. He would fain 
rise and greet him, as of old, with fondling caresses and 
eager barking. But he is old and crippled, he can but 
wag his tail, and tenderly lick the hand that he alone has 
recognized. And as his master, brushing away a furtive 
tear, enters the hall, where abundance reigns and joyous 
voices are heard, poor Argus lays himself down and dies 
of immoderate joy. 

Far clearer, of course, and more familiar to all, is the 
language of animals uttered in sounds. Yet this, also, is, 
as yet, but a tribe of unknown tongues. We are so apt 
to watch only for sounds that resemble the human voice. 
We look for a phonetic language, which, of course, is 
not taught among animals in primary schools by means 
of primers and readers, but by their only mother, nature. 
We forget, that when first we enter an asylum for deaf 
mutes, we hardly observe the imperceptible signs that pass, 
with amazing rapidity, from hand to hand. We forget the 

Unknown Tongues. 


terror with which early travellers spoke of the wondrous 
gestures used among eastern nations, where the feasted 
guest from the west was often startled to find that a 
wave of the hand, which had passed unnoticed before his 
eyes, had been an order to behead an offender. And yet 
we ought, in our day, to have learned to think most hum- 
bly, indeed, of our own imperfect senses. Who guessed 
that there was a world of suns and stars in the heavens 
before the telescope unfolded its wonders'? Were we not 
all startled with the Brahmin, whose laws forbid him to 
eat animal food, and to whom the merciless microscope 
revealed in his cup of pure water a host of living be- 
ings? If we had instruments for the ear, as we have 
for the eye, who knows what we might hear, though we 
should never reach the fabled power of the Eastern 
magician, who saw "the grass grow and heard the fleas 
coughing." But we might surely expect to learn some 
of these now utterly unknown tongues, and to discover 
for instance, the mysterious language which ants and bees 
speak to each other with their antennae. Observations and 
study would soon add largely to our stock of knowledge. 
We have all noticed how still and silent nature appears, 
at sultry noon, when a feeling akin to awe creeps over us, 
and a magic slumber seems to seize and enchain whatever 
is living. But, even then, there remains an all-pervading 
sound, a restless humming and fluttering, close to the 
ground. In every bush, in the cracked bark of trees, and in 
the earth, undermined by insects, life is still audible ; voices 
are still heard, low and faint, perceived only by the watchful 
ear and the reverent mind of the true votary of nature. 

258 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

All language of animals must, of course, be limited in 
a two-fold direction. They cannot express more than they 
feel or think ; hence their wants only, their emotions of 
joy and suffering, are thus communicated to others. They 
have language, but not speech. That is man's high and 
heaven-born endowment. Then, reptiles, birds and mam- 
malia, alone, have the power of vocal utterance, insects 
and others are mere instrumental performers. Of the vo- 
calists, again, reptiles produce sounds with the palate only, 
snakes excepted ; mammalia with their lips, as children 
do when they begin to lisp ; birds alone speak with their 
tongue also, and, thus enjoying double organs of utterance, 
possess the most perfect of unknown tongues. 

The language which animals speak, by means of friction, 
or concussion, is, naturally, the least known of all. We 
see the eager ant rushing homeward to tell the news of 
an invasion; she meets a friend, their antennae touch and 
play with each other, in rapid succession. The messenger 
returns, the latter conveys the news by the same means 
to others, until the whole army is informed. Here we 
see, not an instinctive feeling of dread, but a clear, un- 
doubted communication of facts. So among bees : the 
instant the queen dies, the sad event is made known 
throughout the hive. No sound, perceptible to human 
ear, is heard, but the antenna move with surprising effect, 
and as the result of a clear act of volition. It is not a 
sensation, merely, nor an instinctive action, but it has 
all the signs of special purpose. How they speak, we 
know not ; this, only, is certain, that their language is 

Unknown Tongues. 


not like that of the deaf and dumb, with whom signs 
represent letters or words. 

The cricket, even, is not without its note of utterance, 
and, although a purely mechanical sound, it has its 
sweetness and charm, so that Milton could speak of 

"Far from all resort of mirth 
Save the cricket on the hearth." 

It produces a loud, clear sound, by a quick vibration of 
the elastic skin between its wings ; and from the time 
when the Athenians wore the golden cicada in their hair, 
to our days, when the cricket on the hearth is the pro- 
verbial image of home comfort, its simple note has been 
dear to the heart of man. The true cricket, however, 
speaks only in the sunny time of love. The male be- 
gins, in his hermit-cel], as May approaches, to produce 
a low, inward note of longing. As the sun rises higher^ 
and summer advances, his shrill song becomes louder, 
until he finds the desired companion. Then he returns 
to his solitary life once more, and his voice dies away 
by degrees. Dean Swift has left us a humorous de- 
scription of the curious note of the death-watch beetle. 
The little fellow, in his narrow cell, falls in love ; im- 
mediately, he begins to thump his head against the 
ground, and uses such energy in his demonstration that 
he leaves deep marks in the softer kinds of wood. 
The powerful stroke produces a loud sound, the infalli- 
ble presage of death to superstitious man, the soft mu- 
sic of love to the female beetle. If other males are 
within hearing, they all join in the concert ^^th furious 

260 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

knocking, and such is their jealousy or their zeal to 
answer, that even the ticking of an innocent watch ex- 
cites their wrath and their loudest notes. 

The bright troops of virgin-moths and fresh-born but- 
terflies, seem to speak by the brilliancy of their colors 
only, and thus to appeal through the eye to the heart 
of their beloved. Darwin tells us, however, of some in 
South America, who, when a pair are chasing each other, 
make a clicking noise that is heard at considerable dis- 
tance. That charming traveller found they had a kind 
of drum near the first pair of wings, by which they 
produced this noise to attract the female. The spinax, 
(atropos,) clad in sad colors, and quaintly marked, ac- 
tually utters a low whine, ,when caught, and thus pre- 
sents the lowest voice of suffering known in the animal 

The craw-fish, also, has but a single note of pain; 
when drawn on shore, it utters a low, angry sound, that 
seems to rise from the innermost parts of its curious 
body. Naturalists speak, besides, of a gentle, humming 
noise, resembling that of beetles, which it makes when 
enjoying the sun and its genial warmth; it ceases, how- 
ever, the instant any other noise is heard, and has thus 
been but rarely observed. 

'•The voice of the turtle is heard in the land," but 
it has little to please the ear or to attract attention. 
Nor are fishes better endowed in point of language. 
They have a thick, immovable tongue, adhering firmly 
to the lower jaw. A voice would, however, be of small 
avail to them in an element so little sonorous as wa- 

Unknown Tongues. 


ter. A German enthusiast tells us, it is true, that they 
speak in light, saircely perceptible breathings ; but no 
one else ever heard them. Still, some of them actually 
do utter noises of various and seldom agreeable nature. 
Tenches have a croaking sound, which is heard when 
they are caught, and as long as they are living. The 
armado, of South America, has a harsh, grating noise, 
which it utters even beneath the water, and others pipe 
and whistle or growl and grunt, as the grunter and sea- 
scorpion. The drum-fish, of our waters, has his name 
from the skill with which he drums on his own inflated 
body. It is heard best when he passes under a vessel, 
and poetical mariners have compared it to the bass notes 
of an organ, the ringing of a deep-toned bell, or the 
melancholy sounds of an iEolian harp. The dolphins, the 
great favorites of antiquity, were said to love music even 
more than human beings, and to cry in pain and an- 
guish. Aristotle tells us that one of this race, caught 
and wounded near Icaria, cried so loud and bitterly, that 
thousands came swimming into the quiet harbor. The 
fishermen gave the wounded one its liberty, and then 
they all left, expressing their joy in graceful gambols and 
endless gyrations. 

Frogs are veritable artists and masters in one of the 
unknown tongues. They have a true voice — not the re- 
sult of mere mechanical action, but proceedmg from the 
lungs, and expressive of deep feeling. So, at least, think 
the Mahometans, to whom they are sacred, because they 
proclaim to the world the praises of Allah — and even 
more so, because of their marvellous piety. For, when 

262 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the Chaldeans had captured the great patriarch, and 
thrown him into the fire, to be burnt unto death, hosts 
of indignant and sympathizing frogs appeared from all 
sides, and, pouring water on the flames, rescued the Holy 
Father. Horace detested them, in common w^ith Italy's 
own peculiar plague; they disturbed his sleep on the 
famous journey to Brindisi. The peasants of France, too, 
pursued them, at one time, with almost intense hatred. 
No wonder — for they were, by law, compelled to beat, 
night after night, the water in moats and ditches around 
the nobleman's castles, that the croaking of frogs might 
not disturb his lordship's slumbers! Their song, we fear, 
is not much more appreciated in our day. In vain do 
we associate it with the return of spring, the sense of 
genial warmth and the renewal of fuller life and vigor. 
They have but a single sound, the CT", and this they utter 
through the whole diapason, in all possible height and 
depth, from spring until autumn. They are a merry set 
of summer beings. Buried in deep slumber during win- 
ter, the first rays of the spring sun awake them to life. 
At first lazy and silent, they revive as earth and water 
grow warmer. Beautifully dressed in green hunter's garb, 
their bright, lively eyes set in golden frames, they squat 
gravely down on a sunny bank, and, opening wide their 
huge mouths, they look the very picture of homely com- 
fort and broad humor. The}'' have no lips, and have the 
appearance of being doomed to eternal silence. But they 
know, very soon, how to swell their wide throats, that 
shine in dark nights, and to puff out the huge cheeks 
with their enormous air-bladders inside. How lustily the 

Unknown Tongues. 


males call out their classic Brckekekex, co-ax, co-ax ! whilst 
the females only hum in low, humble tones. First, the 
leader's loud, coarse voice breaks forth in solemn into- 
nation; then the others, sitting in a wide circle around 
him, follow in long responses; and at last, from far and 
near, from every pond and every puddle, their deep-toned 
voices are heard in one mighty chorus. It is the mere 
outbreak of joy and delight; they know neither melody 
nor order. Each sings as he likes best, at his own time 
and in his own particular key. They are, apparently, 
vastly amused at their own great talkative powers ; for, 
every now and then, they break out in the happiest laugh- 
ter known in animal creation. Its gusts are so sudden, 
its tones so boisterous and loud — a's if they would burst 
with sheer happiness and joy. When they assemble in 
large numbers, as the tree-frogs love to do in Paramaibo, 
and the countless hosts of common frogs on the banks 
of the Wolga and the Caspian Sea, they absolutely drown 
every other noise. There millions join in the fearfully 
monotonous concerts, until the earth trembles, and for 
miles no sound is heard but their own hoarse croaking. 
Although they all have one voice for the concert and 
another for family matters, their note is nearly the same 
all over the world — only in South America, we are told, 
a tinier frog will sit on a blade of grass, a little above 
the surface of the water, and utter a pleasing chirp, which 
joined by others, has the effect of a harmony of different 
notes. The bullfrog's deep, disproportionate voice has 
frightened many an innocent wanderer from Europe; he 
seems to enjoy the sport, too, for he grows the louder 

2G4 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the surer he is of attention. After a short, happy sum- 
mer, their voices gradually weaken; they strip off their 
delicate dress, which is so thin that it looks upon paper 
like a faint pencil-drawing ; they eat it with apparent de- 
light, and soon after vanish from the sight of man. Si- 
lent and benumbed, they sink again into the ground, to 
pass the cold season in quiet, unbroken slumber. 

A Trip to the Moon. 



% Crf to t|e W^om. 

The moon shines white and silent on the mist. 

On the mist, which like a tide 
Of some enchanted ocean 

O'er the wide marsh doth glide, 
Spreading its ghostlike billows 

Silently far and wide. 

A vague and starry mystic 

Makes all things mysteries, 
And moves the earth's dumb spirit 

Up to the longing skies. 

J. E. Lowell. 

npHE huge bell of the cathedral rang out midnight. 

Like clear crystal drops fell the transparent notes 
from the bright sl^y, as if they were echoes of angels' 
voices. Behind the dusky mountains rose the full orb of 
the moon in golden splendor, and poured its fairy light 
over the vast plain. Faint hazy mists swept across the 
valley, and slowly the pale gossamer light sank deeper 
into the dark narrow streets of the city, A gigantic 
churchyard the silent town lay at the feet of the mys- 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

terious globe in the high heavens — each house a coffin hi 
which slept a thousand joys or sorrows. Only through 
one low window shone the feeble glimmer of a night- 
lamp. A mother was watching her sickly babe; fierce 
fever glared in its glowing face and burning eyes, and 
restlessly the poor child tossed from side to side. At 
last it grew quiet, and seemed to slumber. The mother 
stepped to the window, and looked with tearful eye up 
to the moon. A feeling of deepest loneliness chilled her 
sinking heart; all around her slept ten thousands in happy 
peace; the wicked had ceased from troubling and the 
weary were at rest ; she alone was in sorrow and watched 
with anguish the flickering life of her beloved. 

"Oh," she sighed, "how peaceful and happy it must be 
up there in the silvery light of the moon ! There is 
peace in her pale even light, quiet happiness in her calm, 
unbroken pilgrimage through the dark blue heavens!" 
And she wished she could wander in her sweet meadows 
and rest by her still waters. She prayed, half dreaming, 
half awake, that her soul might, hereafter, be allowed to 
rest from the pain and sorrow of earthly life, in the calm 
sweet light of the moon, praising God and enjoying the 
peace that knows no end. 

For so we dream, even in our day, of paradisiacal 
peace and mysterious charms in the moon; as thousands 
of years ago, the nations of the earth revered in her a 
godlike being, who lighted up the long, sad nights with 
her sweet silvery light, and in chaste beauty, wove strange 
spells over the hearts of men. They built temples iu 
honor of the goddess, priests sang her praises in mighty 

A Trip to the Moon. 


anthems, sacrifices won her favor and disarmed her just 
wrath. Lofty were her thrones in the far East; Asia 
and the world worshipped her, and great was the Diana 
of the Ephesians ! 

This faith, like alas! many a better faith, is found no 
longer among men. Superstition, alone, has remained. 
The Chinese beats his drums and gongs to keep the great 
dragon from swallowing up his moon at the time of an 
eclipse, and the Wallachian peasant sees in her pale, faint 
glimmer how the vampire rises from his brother's grave. 
With us the telescope has stripped the moon of her di- 
vine attributes, and dry, sober calculations have torn all 
strange fancies and gay charms from the humble satel- 
lite of the earth. 

Now the moon is simply a little globe, not much lar 
ger than America, so that the longest journey, that could 
be undertaken there, would explore Asia from end to end. 
We can easily get there, for she is only about two hun 
dred and forty thousand miles from us, a mere trifle in 
<)omparison with the distance of the nearest star. Will 
you accompany us ? There is no luggage required, for 
there are plenty of castles in the air, and as for provisions, 
have not our very first lessons taught us the precious sub- 
stance of which the moon is made? Passengers are not 
expected to travel v/ith a huge telescope under the arm, 
and a book of logarithms in their hand. We leave that to 
the munificent Earl of Rosse, who compels the chaste god- 
dess to come down within the familiar distance of three 
hundred miles, even to bold Ireland ! We have, besides, 
cunning astronomers, who m.arshal with ease millions of 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

numbers, and command the poor planets to appear in 
given places, threatening to deny their identity, if they 
are not there within the minute. We are simple travel- 
lers, and, 1 fear, would not disdain the aid of a beanstalk, 
if we thought it the shortest road to heaven. 

Once on the moon, however, we are immediately struck 
with awe and wonder at the strange landscapes that we 
suspected already from below, even with unarmed eyes, 
in the dark and light spots on the moon's disc. Now 
the gray portions become plains, the light ones mountains. 
That these brilliant spots are mountains, we know from 
their shadows, which always fall on the side opposite the 
sun, and which lengthen in precise proportion as the sun 
sinks lower. The most dazzling points, however, are not 
mountains but towering precipices, whose steep, smooth 
sides reflect the light- with greatest force. 

But how entirely different is this mountain scenery from 
that of the Alps or the Andes! Here we see no lofty, 
snow-covered peaks, no long, pleasing ridges and lovely 
valleys ; not even the proud domes of the Cordilleras 
with their steep terraces are here represented. The whole 
surface of the moon is covered wdth circular walls, inclos- 
ing deep, dark caverns, into v/hich whole territories have 
sunk with their hills and mountains. Some of these huge 
abysses are more than fifty miles in diameter, others 
spread still wider, but all are engirt at the top by great 
walls of rock, which are serrated and often crowned by 
lofty peaks. The smallest and most regular are called 
craters, from their resemblance to the craters of the earth, 
but the form is all that they have in common. Volca. 

A Trip to the Moon. 


noes the moon does not know, and the shining points on 
her night side, which Herschel loved so much to observe, 
are only the highest points of lofty mountains, resplendent 
in brilliant sunshine. 

On the southwestern part of the disc we see one of 
those gigantic, elevated tablelands, with which the moon 
abounds. They are evidently the oldest formations, fear- 
fully torn and tarnished in every direction, full of craters, 
fissures and fractures, and traversed by long furrow-like 
valleys; but in their midst we see, invariably, a most 
beautiful variety of landscapes, such as our earth boasts 
of : groups of mountains, broad, vast plains, gently swell- 
ing ridges, and fair valleys, dotted with numerous, well- 
rounded hills. 

By their side we notice one of those regular, and there- 
fore probably more recent, circular mountains, of which 
more than one thousand five hundred are already known, 
and which, in some parts of the moon, stand so closely 
packed together, as to give to these regions the ap- 
pearance of a honeycomb. Their walls are nearly all 
around of the same height; within, their straight, steep 
sides sink suddenly into the abyss ; without they fall off 
more gradually in terraces, and send occasional spurs 
into the surrounding country. In the centre there rises 
commonly an isolated peak, sometimes merely a hum- 
ble hill, at other times a lofty mountain or even a 
small cluster of conical eminences. These central heights 
never rise to a level with the circular ranges; some 
are nearly five thousand feet high, but then the impass- 
able wall, that surrounds them without breach or pass, 


Leaves from the Book of Nature, 

and shuts them off from the rest of the universe, towers 
aloft to the amazhig height of seventeeu thousand feet ! 

If the number of these circular mountains is so great, 
that of small, burnt-out craters is still T.r.ore astounding; 
even a moderately powerful telescope shof.s us some twen- 
ty thousand. Inside they often sink to an \ncredible depth, 
into which their walls cast a deep, evr.rlasting shadow ; 
here there reigns entire gloom, which th^- l"^ht of the sun, 
even at its highest, never reaches. Th-'ir tops, however, 
■when fully lighted up at the time of fuil moon, shine in 
glorious splendor, reflecting the sun's rays with dazzling 
lustre. Others show only their margin illuminated, like 
a delicate ring of light, forming a magic circle around 
the dark, yawning crater. Now and then we see two or 
more strung together like rows of pearls, connected with 
each other by canals, or even two at a time surrounded 
by a common wall and combining their desolate horrors. 

Continued chains of mountains, like the Alps and Andes 
of our mother earth, are rare in the moon, and even 
when met with, only short and without spurs or valleys. 
The longest ridge extends about four hundred and fifty 
miles, but its peaks rise to the prodigious height of 
seventeen thousand feet. On the other hand, the moon 
abounds in countless, isolated cones, which in the nor- 
thern half group themselves into long, broad belts. 
Like the thorns of a chestnut, thousands of these moun- 
tains rise suddenly from the plain, and are seen to 
stretch their long, gaunt arms from the outline of the 
moon's disc into the dark sky. Even the vast plains 
of our little neighbor are covered with long, curiously 

A Trip to the Moon. 


formed ranges of low hills, which, though often a mile 
wide, never rise beyond a thousand feet, and therefore 
show us their shadow only when the sun is extremely 

Much as these strange forms differ from all we see on 
earth, we are still more struck with the quaint, mysterious 
fissures, narrow but deep, which pass in almost straight 
lines, like railways, right through plain and mountain, cut 
even craters in two, and often end themselves in craters. 
At full moon they appear to us as lines of brilliant light, 
at other times as black threads, and must, therefore, have 
a width of at least a thousand feet. We have, on earth, 
nothing to compare with them ; for even the terrible gul 
lies which cross the prairies of Texas, dwindle into utter 
nothingness by the side of these gigantic rents. As long 
as men saw every day new surprising analogies between 
the moon and the earth, and the gray spots were oceans, 
the light ones continents, these inexplicable lines also ap- 
peared now as rivers and now as canals, or even as beauti- 
fully Macadamized turnpikes ! The citizens of the moon 
can, however, hardly yet afford building roads of such 
gigantic width, by water or by land, nor will the fact, 
that these deep furrows cut through craters and lofty 
mountains, and invariably preserve the same level, admit 
of such an interpretation. At all events those only can 
see canals and roads on the moon, who have already found 
there cities and fortified places. 

What gigantic and astounding revolutions must have 
passed over the moon, to produce these colossal moun- 
tains, rising not unfrequently to a height of twenty-six 

272 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

thousand feet, these peculiar, massive rings, these enormous 
cliffs and furrows ! How insignificant appear, in compari- 
son, the greatest events of that kind, on our earth, where 
even proud ^Etna hardly rivals the smallest of the moon's 
craters! Their universal tendency to round forms has 
led to the idea that all these elevations and indentations 
are the effect of one and the same mysterious power. 
Everything favors the presumption, that the moon was 
originally a liquid mass, and that, whilst it became solid, 
new forces were unloosened in the interior, causing gigantic 
eruptions, as when the pent-up air bubbles up from a mass 
of molten metal. Some of these bubbles would upon 
bursting, naturally leave behind a circular ridge and a 
slight rise in the centre of the cavity. These forces seem 
to have been most active near the poles, whose desolate 
regions are dotted over with countless hills and moun- 
tains ; near the equator vast plains stretch out, broken 
only here and there by a lofty peak or solitary crater. 
Thus man, pigmy man, ventures already to read the rid- 
dles of mysterious events that happened in the earliest 
times of the history of a great world, which his foot has 
never yet trodden! He has, however, not only measured 
the mountains of the moon, and laid out maps and charts 
of her surface, but he has given names to mountains and 
islands. Formerly the most renowned philosophers were 
thus immortalized, we trust without any insidious com- 
parison between philosophy and moonshine. Of late, how- 
ever, dead or living astronomers, who often enjoyed little 
enough of this world's goods, have been presented with 
large estates in the moon. Thus Kepler, whom the great 

A Trip to the Moon. 


emperor and the empire of Germany sufTured to starve, 
obtained one of the most brilliant mountains for his 
share; and Tycho, Copernicus, Hipparchus and Albateg- 
nius are his neighbors in those regions, though tolerably 
far apart on earth, in point of time, country, and relig- 
ion. Even Humboldt has already his possessions in the 

Nothing strikes the general observer so much, when his 
eye rambles inquiringly over the surface of the moon, 
as the incredible variety of light in different parts. Some 
have sought the cause of this striking phenomenon in the 
diversity of the soil, ascribing to the darker portions a 
looser earth, and perceiving in the greenish sheen of some 
plains even traces of vegetation. Doubtful as it must 
needs be, whether any color could be distinguished at such 
a distance, this is certain, that the lighter portions repre- 
sent rigid masses and reflecting elevations. A most strange 
sensation is produced by the long beams of dazzling lights 
resembling liquid silver, which, now isolated and now 
united together into broad bands of rays, pass in count- 
less hosts over whole, large regions. They often centre 
in some peculiarly brilliant, circular mountain, and the 
gigantic Tycho sends his rays of surpassing splendor over 
more than one-fourth of the whole orb, over hill and dale, 
valley and mountain. At other places they form broad 
masses of mystic light, often twenty miles square. Moun- 
tain ridges or lava streams they are not, though formerly 
the world believed them such, because they pass over the 
very tops of mountains. Can they be glassy or crys- 
tallized masses of volcanic material, which, suddenly cooled, 

274 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

now stand in rigid pallor and reflect light with an intensity 
unknown to us on earth 1 

As yet we have met with no trace of life on the moon. 
Are there no inhabitants on our strange satellite 1 In our 
day, when the plurality of worlds threatens to become 
the war-cry of sects and schools, the question is but na- 
tural, and many an eager inquirer has no doubt asked 
himself : what may life be on the moon 1 Have they 
built cities and founded empires there like the men of 
the earth 1 Does a blue sky smile upon them, and do 
merry springs leap down the green slopes of their moun- 
tains ? 

Nor is the question altogether of recent date. While 
Sir John Herschel explored the wonders of the southern 
heaven on the Cape of Good Hope, there appeared unex- 
pectedly a little pamphlet, which created no small sensa- 
tion even among the learned. It purported to be his first 
account of new discoveries in the moon, and contained 
marvellous reports of sheep of strange shape, of men 
with the wings of bats, of cities and fortified towns. The 
world, however, soon found that this was an ingenious 
hoax from the pen of an American, who had thus prac- 
tically tested the credulity of his contemporaries. The 
credit which the clever imposture found, even among the 
well-informed, is an ample apology for the sanguine ex- 
pectations of those who still hope, by the aid of improved 
instruments, to discover the man in the moon ; or, like 
good old Bishop Wilkins, to pay him a neighborly visit, 
for which, ia sober earnest, most ingenious plans have 
been devised. Distinguished astronomers insist upon hav- 

A Trip to the jMoon. 


mg seen large buildings in the moon ; Gruithuisen tells 
us of an edifice near the equator, in its most fertile re- 
gions, of twenty-five miles diameter and surrounded with 
large walls, which face, with astounding accuracy, the four 
quarters of the compass. As it is only le premier pas 
qui coicte, Schwabe, in Germany, soon discovered on the 
outside some smaller buildings, and even earth- works ! 

One point, above all, is apparently altogether lost sight 
of, by those who cherish such sanguine hopes. If we 
eould distinguish a man, or any other object at the dis 
tance of five miles, it would still require an instrument, 
which would magnify objects fifty thousand times, to see 
anything of that size on the moon. But if the fiir-distant 
future should ever produce sucli an improvement in tele- 
scopes, that would only increase, and in alarming pro- 
portion, the difficulties arising from the density of our 
atmosphere and the daily movement of the earth. Even 
with our present instruments, far as they are yet from 
the desired power, these impediments are so great as se- 
riously to impair their usefulness. All that has as yet 
been accomplished is to see objects of the extent of one 
hundred yards; perhaps we may, ere long, succeed in dis- 
tinguishing works of the size of our pyramids and largest 
cathedrals ; but at best they will only appear as minute 
points, far too small to exhibit form or shape. 

The eye, then, is utterly incapable of discovering life- 
endowed beings in the moon. This would, of course, in 
itself not preclude the existence of inhabitants in that 
globe. Every argument, on the contrary, leads rather to 
the conclusion, that the life of other worlds is, on the 

276 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

whole, govenied by the same laws as that of our earth. 
The same infinite variety which astounds the eye and the 
mind of man, when he studies our animal creation here 
below, and the exquisite adaptation of these countless forms 
to their precise purpose, must needs continue throughout 
creation. God is not only great, but also consistent in 
his greatness, and the eternal laws of nature, which are, 
after all, but an expression of His will, must apply to 
other worlds also. The inquiring mind will, therefore, not 
without benefit try to derive additional knowledge even 
from the scanty facts with which we are as yet only 

We know tolerably well the soil, the climate and the 
surface of the moon. What, then, do they teach us as 
to life on that globe? The first circumstance that strikes 
the traveller on the moon, is the wonderful facility of 
motion. Gravity is in the moon six times less than on 
the earth, so that the same power with which we here 
lift eighteen pounds would there raise a hundred weight. 
The arm that can throw a stone on earth ten feet high, 
would on the moon throw it up to sixty feet. The in- 
equalities of the soil there M^ould, to an earth-born man, 
be no difficulties; he would glide over hills and moun- 
tains, which here below require gigantic structures, with 
the ease of the winged birds of heaven. This must at 
once produce a radical diflf*erence between life on earth 
and life on the moon. 

If we look next for the two great elements of earthly 
life, air and water, we find that the moon is but ill pro- 
vided for in that respect. With all sympathy for great 

A Trip to the Moon. 


discoverers and sanguine optimists, we are compelled to 
deny the existence of either water or air, such as we 
have them on earth, in our satellite. We know the pres- 
ence of air by the fact that all air breaks and weakens 
rays of light, which pass through it. The atmosphere of 
the moon shows no such effects. Her landscapes appear 
as clear and distinct on the margin as in the centre of 
the orb, and when stars pass over the latter, they show 
no diminution of light at the time of their entrance into 
the luminous circle, no increase of light when they leave 
it again. The evaporation of water also, would be 
betrayed by the same breaking of rays, if that element 
were mixed up with the air, as it is in our own atmos- 
phere, or if it covered any part of the moon's surface. 
Unwilling as we are to banish her inhabitants exclusively 
to that side of the moon, which human eye has never 
yet beheld, because it is constantly turned away from 
the earth, and there, at fancy's bid to revel in a paradise 
with purling brooks and balmy zephyrs, nothing is left 
but to assume that the air is too thin and the water too 
ethereal to be perceived by the instruments now at our 
command. The careful calculations of the great astron- 
omer Bessel resulted in the bare possibility of an atmos- 
phere, a thousand times thinner than our own, showing 
conclusively how little we can expect to find life on the 
moon to resemble in any way life on earth. The in- 
habitants of that world, if there be any, must have other 
bodies than ours, other blood must run through their 
veins, and other lungs breathe their air — we could never 
live in such a world. 

278 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

And what a curious almanac these good people in the 
moon would have ! There, days are as long as years, and 
day and year are equal to our months: twenty-nine days, 
twelve hours, and forty-five minutes. The seasons differ but 
very little from each other. On the equator there reigns 
eternal summer, for the sun is ever in the zenith; the 
poles are buried in eternal winter. The days are of 
equal length throughout the year; all days equally light, 
all nights equally dark. The absence of an atmosphere 
deprives the moon of the sweet charms of a twilight, and 
glaring day would follow gloomy night with the rapidity 
of lightning, if the slow rising and setting of the sun 
did not slightly break the suddenness of the transition. 
Human eyes, how^ever, could not bear the fierce contrasts 
of light and shadow ; they would long in vain for the 
soft intervals between the two extremes, the other col- 
ors, which beautify our world with their joyous variety, 
and soft harmony. The sky is there not blue, but even 
in daytime black, and by the side of the dazzling sun the 
stars claim their place and shed their light in the heavens. 
Near the poles the mountain tops shine in unbroken 
splendor year after year, but the valleys know neither 
day nor night, for they are ever but scantily lighted by 
the faint glimmer reflected from the walls that surround 

That side of the moon w^hich is turned away from 
us, has a night of nearly fifteen days ; the stars only, and 
planets, shine on its ever dark sky. The side we see, 
on the contrary, knows no night; the earth lights it up 
with never ceasing earth-shine, a light fourteen times 

A Trip to the Moon. 


stronger than that which we receive from the moon. We 
recognize our own light, lent to our friend, in the faint, 
grayish glimmer of that portion of the moon which be- 
fore and after the new moon receives no light from 
the sun, but only from the earth, and reflects it back 
again upon us. Mornings in fall show it more brilliant 
than evenings in spring, because in autumn the conti- 
nents of the earth with their stronger light illumine the 
moon, while in spring she only receives a fainter light 
from our oceans. Our orb appears to the man in the 
moon as changeable as his home to us, and he may quite 
as correctly speak of the first or last quarter of the earth, 
of new earth and full earth. The whole heaven moves be- 
fore him once in twenty-nine days around its axis; the 
sun and stars rise and set regularly once in the long 
day ; but the vast orb of our earth is nearly immova- 
ble. All around is in slow, unceasing motion : the mild 
face of the earth alone, a gorgeous moon of immense 
magnitude, never sets nor rises, but remains ever fixed 
in his zenith. It there appears sixteen times larger than 
the moon to us, and daily exhibits its vast panorama of 
oceans, continents and islands. Bright lights and dark 
shadows are seen in ever varied change, as land or 
water, clearings or forests appear, new with every cloud, 
and different at different seasons. The man in the moon 
has thus not only his watch and his almanac daily be- 
fore him in the ever-changing face of the earth, but he 
may, for all we know, have maps of our globe which 
many a geographer would envy on account of theii- full- 
ness and accuracy. Long before Columbus discovered 

280 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

America, and Cook New Holland, our lunar neighbor 
knew most correctly the form and the outlines of the new 
continents. There was no New World for him, and 
there is none left. He could tell us the secrets of the 
interior of Africa, and reveal to us the fearful mysteries 
of the polar seas. But how he on his side must marvel 
at our vast fields of snow, our volcanoes and tropical 
storms and tempests — he who knows neither fire, nor 
snow, nor clouds! What strange fables he may have 
invented to explain the shadows of our clouds as they 
chase each other over sea and land, and hide from him 
in an instant the sunlit landscape ! And stranger still, 
on the side of the moon which is turned from the earth, 
he knows nothing at all about us, unless news reach him 
from the happier side. Or he may undertake — the great 
event in his life — a long and painful journey to the 
bright half of his globe, to stare at the wondrously bril- 
liant earth-star, with its unread mysteries and marvellous 
changes of flitting lights and shadows. Who knows what 
earnest prayers may rise from the moon also, full of thanks 
for the floods of light and heat we pour upon them, 
or of ardent wishes that their souls might hereafter be 
allowed to dwell in the bright homes of the beauteous 
earth-star 1 

Only in one point has the dark side of the moon a 
rare advantage. With its dark, unbroken night, a true 
and literal "fortnight," it is the observatory of the moon, 
and the best in the whole planetary system. There no 
light from the earth, no twilight, hinders the most deli- 

A Trip to the Moon. 281 

cate observations, and neither clouds nor fogs ever step 
between the telescope and the heavenly bodies. 

It is a cold world, however, all over that pale, life- 
less globe. The rays of the sun can hardly warm that 
thin, imperceptible atmosphere, and on the plains near 
the equator, a fortnight of scorching sun and burning 
heat, which parches and withers all life, is instantane- 
ously followed by another fortnight of fearful cold. Hu- 
man eyes could not bear this ever cloudless, colorless 
horizon. Over the mournful scene that looks like one 
vast ruin of nature, broods eternal silence. The thin air 
cannot carry the waves of sound. Not a word, not a 
song is ever heard amid those desolate mountains ; no 
voice ever passes over the sunken plains. Pain and 
joy are equally silent. A rock may glide from its an- 
cient resting-place, a mountain may fall from its eternal 
foundation — no thunder is heard, no echo awakened. 
Grim silence reigns supreme. No rainbow is set in the 
clouds as a token from on high; storm and tempest 
give not way to the merry song of birds and the breath 
of gentle, balmy winds. There we look in vain for 
green forests with their cool shade, for playful fountains 
to cheer and to refresh us. Far as eye can reach we 
see nothing but bare mountains, desolate masses of rock, 
countless stones amidst huge boulders of glassy fabric. 
Human bodies could not endure these long days and 
endless nights ; human souls could not bear that silent, 
lifeless world of desolation. 

Even this universal devastation, however, does not 
absolutely preclude the existence of created beings on 


Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the moon. We can think as little of a noble tree with* 
out leaves, flowers and fruits, as of an orb, rolling in 
silent, serene majesty through the midnight firmament, 
without organic life and intelligence. The earth teaches 
us the same lesson by simple logic. The earth also, once 
incandescent and scarcely cooled, has been the theatre 
of fearful convulsions; gigantic forces have torn her in- 
terior, and deeply furrowed her surface. But hardly 
was apparent peace restored upon the still unshapen 
globe when it produced, at the word of the Almighty, 
a creation full of fresh life, at first rude, raw and imper- 
fect, like nature itself, but daily growing nobler, more 
varied, more spiritual. We know this, for each varied 
organization of such life, as it perished, has left its epi- 
taph written upon imperishable monuments. May we 
then not believe, that, like the earth, the moon also has 
had her first period of storm and strife 1 Of this her 
vast plains, her rugged craters and mysterious furrows 
give proof in abundance. The present seems to be her 
period of rest, during which nature gains strength to pro- 
duce a life-endowed creation. This we conclude from her 
unchanging face, and her clear, imperceptible atmos- 
phere. If this be so, then there must come a time for 
the moon as for the earth, though perhaps after thou- 
sands of years only, when thinking, intelligent beings 
will rise from her dust. The whole universe has some 
elements in common. The great cosmic powers, light 
and heat, are the same first conditions of organic life 
throughout the vast creation ; they send their waves 
through the wide ocean of the world, and play against 

A Trip to the Moon. 


the shores of all of its gigantic islands. There is, no 
doubt, vital power in them, and at the proper time, at 
His bidding, life will spring forth and order will reign, 
where now destruction and chaos alone seem to rule 

The moon is one of the great heavenly bodies, all of 
which work together in beautiful harmony to the glory 
of God. They all move, like loving sisters, hand in hand 
through the great universe. As they live with each 
other, so they evidently live for each other. Supersti- 
tion, ignorance, and even wilful exaggeration have much 
obscured the effects of this mutual influence. The moon 
especially has been treated as if she existed for the ben- 
efit of the earth only. From the times of antiquity the 
world has been filled with fanciful stories of her influ- 
ence on our w^eather, our vegetation, our health, and 
even the state of our mind. Many have believed in a 
daily direct communication between the two great bodies; 
they looked upon meteoric stones as coming to us di- 
rectly from the craters of the moon's volcanoes, and the 
fertile imagination of happy dreamers reduced a crude 
mass of half true, half-fabulous details into a regular sys- 
tem, long before the moon itself was even but tolera- 
bly well known to us. It is notorious that men of such 
rank as Piazzi and Sir William Herschel considered cer- 
tain light appearances in the moon as volcanic eruptions, 
whilst a German astronomer of great merit, Schroeter, 
saw in them enormous fires raging in some of the cap- 
itals of our satellite! Meteoric stones are, in our day, 
fortunately better explained. Unless the volcanoes on 

284 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the moon had a force thirty times greater than our own, 
they could not project masses far enough to come within 
reach of our atmosphere. Such gigantic and continued 
eruptions could, moreover, not fail to cause some per- 
manent change in the surface of the moon, of which no 
trace has as yet been perceived. 

Great heavenly bodies commune not, like men, by 
throwing bombshells at each other; their influence is 
felt through the agency of light, heat and attraction. 
The light of the moon, it is true, is ninety thousand times 
weaker than sunlight, and that its rays warm not, is a 
popular assertion. But people are not always right, with 
due deference be it said, even in matters of science. They 
used to say that moonlight nights were colder than oth- 
ers. So they are ; but the moon is not to be blamed 
for it. She shines brighter when the sky is not ob- 
scured; but when that is the case, the earth also grows 
colder, because radiation is increased. Thus the two facts 
are perfectly true, only there is no connection of cause 
and effect between them. Melloni's experiments, made 
in 1846, prove even that the rays of the moon have a 
certain amount of heat, though so little, that the most 
powerful lenses fail to make it perceptible on the ther- 

The old Phoenicians already knew the moon well as 
their faithful companion and guide on their long, bold 
sea voyages; they knew that the gigantic breathing of 
the ocean, its ebb and tide, were her work. Antiquity 
looked with awe and wonder upon this supernatural 
power of the great pale orb. Modern science sees in 

A Trip to the Moon, 

it one of the most glorious effects of that great and mys- 
terious power of attraction, which binds and holds the 
universe together. The moon, though so near to us, 
cannot move the firm continent, but she allures the 
elastic waters of the earth, until they raise huge foam- 
covered masses up towards the distant charmer. In one 
great, unbroken wave of vast dimensions they follow the 
receding moon with eager haste, and in the short space 
of twenty-four hours rush round our globe, until con- 
tinent and island break their imposing power. Twice 
in the day and twice at night does this immense giant- 
snake, wound round our globe, breathe; for six hours it 
swells and rises high into the pure air of the atmos. 
phere; for six hours afterwards it sinks and vanishes, 
falling back into its eternal limits. Although the mys- 
terious sympathies of the great worlds of the universe 
are all alike, and sun and moon work jointly in this 
great movement, the power of the latter far exceeds, in 
this respect, by its greater vicinity to the earth, that of 
the sun. Hence the tides follow closely the magic course 
of the moon in the heavens, and recur regularly once in 
every twelve hours, twenty-five minutes, as far as they 
are not retarded by the resistance of the water itself, by 
coasts and winds, or by opposing currents. When sun 
and moon happen both to attract at the same time, the 
effect is, of course, incredibly heightened ; so-called spring- 
tides rise at the period of full or new moon, rush with 
irresistible power high over cliffs and chalky ramparts, 
their gigantic arms long stretched out towards the moon, 
and fall upon the peaceful plain and the fertile fields of 

286 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

the terrified husbandman. Still, man can conquer even 
the great magician in the heavens. He knows the hour 
when the wild army is approaching, he flees from the 
rage of the threatening tide waves, or he builds gigantic 
walls, against which they dash hissing and roaring ; they 
tremble for an instant, as if drawing a last, full breath, 
and then break their iron front into harmless clouds of 
spray and foam. 

As all attraction is mutual, the earth also causes an 
enormous tide on the moon ; its power is eighty-one 
times stronger than that which produces our tides. The 
moon, we have seen, turns constantly only one side to- 
wards us ; it is, therefore, but natural to conclude that 
so immense a power must have produced vast changes 
in her surface. Some believe, on this account, that, to 
restore the balance, the sea and the atmosphere of the 
moon have fled to the opposite side. So much is cer- 
tain, that, thanks to the loving attraction of our mother 
earth, the side turned towards us rises at least a thousand 
feet above the regular form of a globe. 

But the great ocean does not alone show the attrac- 
tion of the moon in its tides; the huge mass of air, the 
atmosphere, that surrounds the earth, is likewise exposed 
to these forces. Ebb and tide on this vast, unmeasured 
ocean, are, of course, not perceptible far down in its 
depth, where we poor men breathe painfully ; but only 
on the surflice, to which even the boldest balloon sailor 
has never yet risen, and perhaps in the very delicate 
changes of susceptible barometers. The latter are, how- 
ever, extremely minute; only from time to time some 

A Trip to the Moon. 


great current in the atmosphere lushes down into the 
deep of the transparent ocean, and tells us in a roaring 
tornado, or the destructive violence of a fearful hurri- 
cane, of the mysterious movements in the airy waves, 
that were charmed by the magic power of the moon, and 
tried to leave their mother earth to hasten to the be- 
witching island in the blue, starry heavens. 

But there is another strong, binding tie between moon 
and earth, that makes us thankful for the precious things 
put forth by the former. She has been the oldest and 
safest teacher, to whom mankind ever listened. Even the 
old Egyptians, Babylonians, Indians, and Greeks, whilst 
they worshipped her as a goddess, failed not carefully to 
observe the changes in her pale face and by them to 
measure their time. Like a faithful porter, she has ever 
stood at the gates of the great heavens with their count- 
less stars, and taught us how to find times and distances. 
In the upper rooms of the eighth story of the lofty towers 
of Babylon, in the dark halls of the vast temples of 
Egypt, sat the hoary priests of antiquity, and watched the 
wanderings of the great star of the night, thus to order 
the times of the year and the labors of man. The moon 
has taught us the secrets of arithmetic and geometry; 
she was the first mathematician, she aided agriculture and 
navigation ; she taught historians the order of great events, 
and gave to the priests of mankind their lofty positions 
by confiding to them the secret of her constant changes. 
Now, our astronomers make her the mirror on which the 
earth throws her image, when the sun is behind both, 
and thus prove on the moon's quiet surface, the round 

288 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

form of our globe. The faint uncertain light, Avhich at the 
time of the first quarter fills up the rest of the round orb, 
serves them to measure the intensity of the light which the 
earth diffuses. The perturbations in her motions teach them 
the respective powers of attraction of sun and earth, make 
known their form and reveal even the internal structure 
of the latter. Eclipses must serve as means to measure 
the height of lunar mountains, and to investigate more 
closely the secrets of the sun itself, and when the moon 
covers fixed stars, they learn by this the velocity of light, 
the distance of those stars and the density of our own 

From a consideration of such signal services rendered 
to grateful mankind, we might well grant the moon a 
word now and then to the clerk of the weather. But 
the fiiith of our forefathers in this respect has been al- 
most entirely destroyed. Neither the barometer itself, nor 
the most careful observations made during the space of 
twenty-eight years in the north, during fifty years in the 
tropics, show any reliable influence of the moon on our 
w^eather. Still the world adheres with a constancy, worthy 
of a better cause, to the ancient belief. The faithful prefer 
their own observations to those of abstract science, as 
they call it, and insist upon it that a change in the moon 
produces a change in the weather ; what their grand- 
parents taught them, they faithfully hand down to grand- 
children. We all have a tendency to explain mysteries 
by new mysteries, and as no science has yet been able 
to enter into the great laboratory where rain and sun- 
shine are manufactured, the world finds it easy and con- 

A Trip to the Moon. 


venient to lay that duty upon the broad shoulders of the 
good old moon, and to make her, in a new sense, "a 
faithful witness in heaven." 

But as among the chaff, many a plump good grain may 
be found, so the vast mass of superstitions about the in- 
fluence of the moon on life on earth also contains, every 
now and then, a particle of truth. It is not denied that 
wood cut at the time of an increasing moon is more 
perishable than that cut at other periods, for repeated 
and careful observations made in the West Indies con- 
firm the long-cherished opinion. Many farmers, also, firm- 
ly believe that all grain sown under an increasing moon 
prospers better on that account. That the light of the 
moon must have some little influence on vegetation, has 
been satisfactorily proved by the fact that plants, which 
had been bleached in darkness, recovered their green 
color by exposure to moonlight only. 

The sick know the influence of the moon unfortunately 
but too well. Goitres are said to swell periodically with 
the full moon ; liver-complaints to become worse at the 
same time, and the insane to suffer of more violent at- 
tacks of rage. Death itself, it is well known, frequently 
waits for the tide, that is, for the moon. It is much to 
be regretted that science, with haughty disregard, has 
thrown these popular notions aside without an attempt 
to sift them, a proceeding which cannot fail to deprive 
us of much that might otherwise become not only inter- 
esting, but even valuable. Since we have entered deeper 
into the secrets of life ; shice we know how incredibly 
delicate nre the functions of our nerves; since we can 

290 Leaves from the Book of Nature. 

no longer deny the mysterious effects of magnetism, even 
though we may look upon them only as symptoms of 
disease and self illusion ; since we have to admit the effi- 
cacy of light, long after human eyes perceive it no longer 
— it is surely high time that we should try to find the 
grain of truth which is in every fable, and probably in 
these superstitions also. We are aware that men of sci- 
ence are sedulously employed in this noble undertaking, 
and that, for instance, in medicine very remarkable re- 
sults have already been obtained. 

This practical tendency need not destroy the sweet, 
magic charm, which the moon now, as of old, exercises over 
the soul of man. The poet tells us to-day, as he did 
yesterday, how the mountains kneel before God in silent 
prayer, when the peace of the sabbath reigns all around, 
how the host of stars light up the gigantic temple, and 
the moon hangs, as the ever-burning lamp of man's 
worship, high above the eternal altar of nature." The 
painter studies the quaint, fairy lights of the pale orb, 
as it pours its mild radiance over field and town. The 
lover communes with the tender amber round which the 
moon spreads about her, moving through a fleecy night, 
and the pained heart finds sweet comfort in her peace- 
ful silver light. The arctic traveller blesses her as she 
lights up with her faint but ever welcome favor, the long, 
cold polar night; and the people at large, look up to 
her for mysterious blessings. For many are the charms 
of the pale light of the moon, not known to the man 
of science. How peacefully and kindly she smiles through 
the window upon the little bed of the infant, and wakes 

A Trip to the Moon. 


in its childish mind a thousand strange and fanciful no- 
tions, until gentle slumber closes those pure innocent eyes! 
Teasing and playing, she will come between that loving 
couple in the dark bower, and break in upon their sweet, 
silent communion. Beautiful as some fair saint, serenely 
moving on her way in hours of trial and distress, she 
watches like a mild, faithful companion by the side of 
the sick-bed; with peace and heavenly comfort in her 
sweet, pale face, she soothes the weary eye and shortens 
the long, painful night. Inspiration itself has asked, " Who 
is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the 
moon f At last her gentle pilg^^mage is ended ; sink- 
ing silently she drops down behind the sky, a faithful 
witness of the brighter light that is to follow after this 
faint moonlight life, and a gladsome prophet of the abun- 
dance of peace which the Almighty has promised "as 
long as the moon endureth." 



All the Books on this Catalogue sent by mail, co any pan of the Umon,frte 
of postage, upon receipt of Price, 










Embracing all the Recent Discoyeries in Agriultural Chem- 

istry, and the use of Mineral, Vegetable and Animal Mannres, with Descriptions and 
Figures of American Insects injurious to Vegetation. Being a Complete Guide for the 
cultivation of every variety ol Garden and Field Crops. Illustrated by numerous En- 
gravings of Grasses- Grains, Animals, Implements, Insects, &c. By Goitvekneub 
Emerson, of Pennsylvania, upon the basis of Johnson's Farmers Encyclopedia. 


A Treatise on the Theory and PracticI' andscape Gar- 
dening. Adapted to North America, with a view to the impiuvement of Country 
Eesidences; comprising Historical Notices and General Principles of the Art, direc- 
tions for Laying out Grounds and Arranging Plantations, the Description and Cultiva- 
tion of Hardy Trees, Decorative Accompaniments to the House and Grounds, the 
Formation of Pieces of Artificial Waters, Flower Gardens, &c., with Kemarks on 
Eural Architecture. Elegantly Illustrated, with a Portrait of the Author. By A. J. 


On Horticulture, Landscape Gardening, Rural Architecture, 

Trees, Agriculture, Fruit, with his Letters from England. Edited, with a Memoir of 
the Author, by George Wm. Curtis, and a letter to his friends, by Feederika Br»- 
MEB, and an elegant steel Portrait of the Author. 

Do. Do. Do. Do. Colored Plates, 4 00 

With Anatomical and Questional Illustrations ; Containing-, 
also, a Series of Examinations on Equine Anatomy and Philosophy, with Instructions 
In reference to Dissection, and the mode of making Anatomical Preparations ; to which 
Is added a Glossary of Veterinary Technicalities, Toxicological Chart, and Dictionary 
of Veterinary Science. 

Containing Practical Observations on the Causes, Xaturb 

and Treatment of Disease and Lameness of Horses, embracing the most recent and ap- 
proved methods, according to an enlightened system of veterinary thorap^utice, faf 
Uie preservation and restoration « bealth. With Illustntkma. 

2 Books Fuhlished by A. 0. Moore. 


Health and Curing the Diseases of Oxen, Cows, Sheep, and Bwlne, with a great \ariety 
of Orij.'inal Recipes and Valuable Informatioii in relerence to Farm and Dairy manage- 
ment, whereby every man can be his own Cattle Doctor. The principles taught in 
this work are, that all Medication shall be subservient to Nature — that all Medicines 
must be sanative in their operation, and administered with a view of aiding the vital 
^ powers, instead of depressing, as heretofore, with the lancet or by pcisoa. Ey G H. 

Dadd, M. D., Veterinary Practitioner. 

THE DOG AND GUN, ------- 50 

A Few Loose Chapters on Shooting, among which will be found 
some Anecdotes and Incidents ; also, instructions for Dog Breaking, and Interesting let- 
ters from Sportsmen. By A Bad Suot, 


A Premium Essay on the Origin, History, and Characteristics 

of this remarkable American Breed of Horses; tracing the Pedigree from the original 
Justin Morgan, through the most noted of his progeny, down to the present time. 
With numerous portraits. To which are added hints for Breeding, Breaking, and 
General Use and Management of Horses, with practical Directions for training them for 
exhibition at Agricultural Fairs. By D. C. Linslky. 


CANES. 1 00 

A Co:^iplete Treatise upon their Origin and Varieties, Culture 
and Uses, their value as a Forage Crop, and directions for making Sugar, Molasses, 
Alcohol, Sparkling and Still Wines, Beer, Cider, Vinegar, Paper, Starch, and Dye 
Stuffs. Fully Illustrated with Drawings of Approved Machinery ; With an Appendix 
by Leonard Wrat, of Cafiraria, and a description of his patented process of crj^stalliz- 
ing the juice of the Imphee ; with the latest American experiments, including those of 
1857, in the South. By Heney S. Olcott. To which are added translations of valu- 
able French Pamphlets, received from the Hon. John T. Mason, American Minister 
at Paris. 


A Treatise on the Management of Horses, in Relation to 
Stabling, Groomlu" ^ -eding. Watering and Working, Construction of Stables, Venti'a- 
tion. Appendage* oi otables. Management of the Feet, and of Diseased and Defective 
Horses. By John Stewart, Veterinary Surgeon. With Notes and Additions, adapt- 
ing it to American Food and Climate. By A. B. Allen, Editor of the American 


With Cuts, Illustrating the Anatomy of the Foot, and contain- 
iag valuable Hinta on Shoeing and Stable Management, In Health and In Disease. By 
WiLLLAM Miles. 


A Treatise, intended to Explain and Illustrate the Physi- 
ology of Fruit Trees, the Theory and Practice of all Operations connected with the 
Propagation, Transplanting, Pruning and Training of Orchard and Garden Trees, a.s 
Standards, Dwarfs, Pyramids, Espalier, &c. The Laying out and Arranging different 
kinds of Orchards and Gardens, the selection of suitable varieties for different purposes 
and localities. Gathering and Preserving Fruits, Treatment of Diseases, Destruction of 
Insects, Description and Uses of Implements, &c. Illustrated with upwards of 150 
Figures, representing Different Parts of Trees, all Practical Operations, forms of Trees, 
Designs for Plantations, Implements, &c. By P. Bakey, of the Mount Hope Nurseries, 
Rochester, N. Y. 


The Pear Garden ; or, a Treatise on the Propagation and 
Cultivation of the Pear Tree, with Instruotlons for Its Management from the Beedllna 
lo the Bearing Tree. By Thomas ^v. Fikld. 

Books Published by A. 0. Moore. 


In Three Parts, Containing Catalogues of Garden and Flower 

Seed, with Practical Directions under each head for the Cultivation of Culinary Vege- 
tables and Flowers. Also directions for Cultivating Fmit Trees, the Grape Vine, &c. , 
which is tdded, a Calendar to each part, showing the work necessary to be done in 
the various departments each mouth of the year. One volume octavo. 


Cloth, 60 


*' " - - . Cloth, 60 


Cloth, 60 


Containing Directions for Raising, PRorAGAXiNO and Manag- 
Ing Fruit Traes, Shrubs and Plants ; with a description of the Best Varieties of Fizit 
Including New and Valuable Kinds. 

Containing Diseases of Domestic Animals, their Causes, 

Symptoms and Kemedies ; with Eules for Eestoring and Preserving Health by pood 
management ; also for Training and Breeding. 


CoNTAJNiNG Directions for the Formation and Management 
of the Kitchen Garden, the Culture and Uee of Vegetables, Fruits and Medicinal Herbs. 


The American Architect, Comprising original Designs of Cheap 

Country and Village Eesidences, with Details, Specifications, Plans and Directions, 
and an Estimate of the Cost of Each Design. By Joiin W. Eitch, Architect. First 
and Second Series, 4to, bound in 1 ""oL 


Containing Practical Directions for the Culture of Plants, 
In the Flower-Garden, Hot-House, Green-House, Eooms or Parlor Windows, for every 
Month in the Year ; with a Description of the Plants most desirable in each, the nature 
of the Soil and Situation best adapted to their Growth, the Proper Season for Trans- 
planting, &c. ; with Instructions for Erecting a Hot-House, Green-Houee. and Laying 
out a Flower Garden : the whole adapted to either Large or Small Gardens, with In- 
structions for Preparing the Soil, Propagating, Planting, Pruning, Training and Fruit- 
ing the Grape Vine. 

Considered tvith reference to the Breeding, Rearing, Feed- 
ing. Management and Peculiarities of Cage and House Birds. Illustrated with Engray- 
ings. By"D. Jay Beowne. 


An Illustrated Treatise on Vineyards and Wine-Making, 

containing Full Instructions as to Location and Soil, Preparation of Ground, Selection 
and Propagation of Vines, the Treatment of Young Vineyards, Trimming and Training 
the Vines, Manures, and the Making of Wine. 

A Treatise on the Physical and Chemical Properties op 
Soils and Chemistry of Manures • including, also, the subject of Composts, Artificial 
Manures and Irrigation. A new edition, with a Chapter on Bones and Superphos- 


By Dr. Julius Adolphus Stockhardt, Professor in the Royal 
A^emy of Agriculture at Tbarant Tramslated from the German. Bdlt«d, with 
BOt&^ by Jam. s £. Tecbxhach£B. 

4 Books Published by A. 0. MooRia 


Containing Plain and Accurate Descbiptionp of -via the Bif- 
ferent Species and Varieties of Culinary Vegetables, with their Botanical, English, 
French and German names, alphabetically arranged, with the Best Mode of Ouliivating 
them ia the Garden or under Glass; also Descriptions and Character of the most Select 
Fruits, their Management, Propagation, Ac. By EoutET BmST, author of the "Am- 
erican Flower Garden Directory," &c. 

Do. Do. Do. Colored Plates, - 2 00 

A Treatise on the History and Mangement of Ornamental 

and Domestic Poultry. By Eev. Edmttnd 8a^ Dixon, A.M., with large udditiona by 
J. J. Kerr, M.D. Illustrated with sixty-five Original Portraits, engraved expressly fol 
this work. Fourth edition revised. 


A Peactical Treatise on the Construction, Heating and 
Ventilation of Ilot-Uouses, Including Conservatories, Green -Houses, Graperiss and 
other Icinds of Horticultural Structures, with Practical Directions for their Manage 
ment, in regard to Light, Heat and Air. Illustrated with numerous eagravings. By 
P. B. Leuohars, Garden Architect. 


Intended Especially for the American Climate. Being- a 

Practical Treatise on the Cultivation of the Grape Vine in each department of Hot 
House, Cold Grapery, Eetarding House and Out-door Culture. "With Plans for tt'* 
Construction of the Kequisite Buildings, and giving the best methods for Heating the 
same. Every department being fully Illustrated. By William CnoRLXON. 


ORr the Connection bettveen Science and the Art of Practical 
Farming. Prize Essay of the New York State Agricultural Society. By John P. 
Norton, M.A., Professor of Scientific Agriculture in Tale College. Adapted to tbs 
use of Schoole. 



By James F. W. Johnston, M.A.. F.E.SS.L. Siud E., Honorary 

Member of the Eoyal Agricultural Society of England, end author of "Lectures on 
Agricultural Chemistry and Geology." "With an Introduction by John Pitkin Nob- 
ton, M.A., late Professor of Scientific Agriculture in Yale College. "With notes and 
additions by the author, prepared expressly for this edition, and an Appendix compiled 
by the Superintendent ot Education in Nova Scotia. Adapted to the use of Schools. 



With a Complete Analytical and Alphabetical Index and an 
American Preface. By Hon. Simon Brown, Editor of the "New England Farmer.' 

Lectures on the Application of Chemistry and Geology to 
Agriculture. New edition, with an Appendix, containing the Author's Experimento 
in Practical Agriculture. 


Rural Economist and New American Gardener ; Containing 
a Compendious Epitome of the most Important Branches of Agriculture and Bnrai 
Economy ; with Practical Directions on the Cultivation of Fruits and Vegetables, in- 
cluding Landscape and Ornamental Gardening. ByTnoMAfl G. Febsendkn. 2 vola. 
in one. 


Containing Directions for the Cultivation op Vegetables anii 
Garden Fruito. Cloth. 

Boohs Puhlislied by A. 0. Moore. 5 


A Scientific Treatise on Agricultural Chemistry, the Ge- 

ology of Agriculture, on Plants and Animals, Manures and Soils, applied to Practical 
Agriculture ; with a Catechism of Scientific and Practical Agriculture. By J. A. Nash. 


In which are Described all the Various Hardy Herbaceous 
Perennials, Annuals, Shrubs, Plants and Evergreen Trees, with Directions for their 
Cultivation. ^, 


With Practical Notes on Country Residences, Villas, Public 

Parks and Gardens. By Charles H. J. Smith, Landscape Gardener and Garden 
Architect, &c. With Notes and Additions by Lewis F. Allen, author of " llural 


Being a Compilation of Facts from the Best Authorities on 
the Culture of Cotton, its Natural History, Chemical Analysis, Trade and Consumption, 
and embracing a History of Cotton and the Cotton Gin. By J. A. Tckner. 


A Treatise on the Situation, Soil, and Laying-out of Gardens, 
and the making and managing of Hot-Beds and Green-Houses, and on the Propagation 
and Cultivation of the several sorts of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits and Flowers. 


A Practical Treatise on the Culture and Treatment of the 
Grape Vine, embracing its History, with IWrectioiis for its Traatment in the United 
States of America, in the Open Air and under Glass Structures, with and without 
Artificial Heat. By J. Fisk Allen. 


Being a History and Description of the Horse, Mule, Cattle, 
Sheep, Swine, Poultry, and Farm Dogs, with Directions for their Management, Breed, 
ing. Crossing, Bearing, Feeding, and Preparation for a Profitable Market ; also, their 
Diseases and Eemedies, together with full Directions for the Management of the Dairy, 
and the comparative Economy and Advantages of Working Animals, the Horse, Mule, 
Oxen, &c. By K. L. Allen. 


The American Farm Book ; or, a Compend of American Agi'icul- 

ture, being a Practical Treatise on Soils, Manures, Draining, Irrigation, Grasses, Grain, 
Koots, Fruits, Cotton, Tobacco, Sugar Cane, Eice, and every Staple Product of the 
United States ; with the Best Methods of Planting, Cultivating and Preparation for 
Market. Blustrated with more than 100 engravings. By E. L. Allen. 


Being a Complete Description of Farm Houses, Cottages, and 

Out Buildings, comprising "Wood Houses, Workshops, Tool Houses, Carriage and 
Wagon Houses, Stables, Smoke and Ash Houses, Ice Houses, Apiaries or Bee Houses, 
Poultry Houses, Babbitry, Dovecote, Piggery, Barns, and Sheds for Cattle, &c., &c, 
together with Lawns, Pleasure Grounds, and Parks ; the Flower, Fruit, and Vege- 
table Garden; also useful and ornamental domestic Animals for the Country Eesident, 
&c., &c. Also, the best method of conducting water into Cattle Yards and Houaea. 
Beautifully illustrated. 


A Book roR Young Farmers, with Questions tor thb use or 



Books Fuhlished by A. 0. Moore. 


A Complete Manual for the Clt^tivation of the Strawberry ; 

with a description of the best varieties. 

Also, notKjes of the Kaspberry, Blackberry, Currant, Gooseberry, and Grape ; -with 
directions for their cultivation, and the selection of the best varieties. " Every procesa 
here recommended has been proved, the plans of others tried, and the result is her* 
given." With a valuable appendix, containing the observations and experieace ol 
»ome of the inoBt successful cultivators of these fruits in our country. 


A Treatise on Milch Cows, whereby the Quality aud Quantity of 

Milk which any Cow will give may be accurately determined by observing Natura' 
^, Marks or External Indications alone; the length of time she will continue to give 
^ Milk, &c., &c. By M. Francib Guenon, of Libourne, France. Translated by Nicho- 
las P. Trist, Esq. ; with Introduction, Eemarks, and Observations on the Cow and 
the Dairy, by JonN S. Skinnee. Illustrated with numerous engravings. Neatly 
done up in paper covers, 37 cts. 


Comprising the Origin, History and Description of the different 

Breeds of Domestic Poultry, with complete directions for their Breeding, Crossing, 
Bearing, Fattening, and Preparation for Market ; including specific directions for 
Caponizing Fowls, and for the Treatment of the Principal Diseases to which they are 
subject, (Irawn from authentic sources and personal observation. Illustrated wiih 
numerous engravings. By D. J. Beowne. 


Or, American Muck Book ; Treating of the Nature, Properties, 

Sources, History, and Operations of all the Principal Fertilizers and Manures in Com- 
mon Use, with specific directions for their Preservation, and Application to the Soil 
and to Crops ; drawn from authentic sources, actual experience, and personal observa- 
tion, as combined with the Leading Principles of Practical and Scientific Agriculture- 
By D. Jay Beowne. 


With an Account of the Different Breeds, and general direc- 
tions in regard to Summer and Winter Management, Breeding, and the Treatment of 
Diseases, with Portraits and other Engravings. By Heuey S!" Randall. 


With an Account of the Different Breeds, Diseases and Man- 

agement of Sheep, and General Directions in regard to Summer and "Winter Man- 
Bgement, Breeding, and the Treatment of Diseases ; with Illustrative Engravings, by 
YoUAXT »Sc Eandall ; embracing Skinners Notes on the Breed and Management of 
i-h«ep in the United :;tates, and on the Culture of Fine Wool. 


Their Breed, Management and Diseases, with Illustrative En- 
gfftving^ ; to which are added Eemarks on the Breeds and Management of Sheep la 
! the Unitei States, and on the Culture of Fine Wool in Silesia. By William Youatt. 

you ATT AND MARTIN ON CATTLE ; - . . - 1 25 

Being a Treatise on their Breeds, Management, and Diseases, 

comprising a full History of the Various Eaccs; their Origin, Breeding, and Merits; 
their capacity for Beef and Milk. By W. Yottatt and W. C. L. Martin. The whole 
forming a Complete Guide for the Farmer, the Amateur, and the Veterinary Surgeon, 
with 100 Illustrations. Edited by Ambkosb Stevens. 


Youatt on the Structure and Diseases of the Horse, with 
their Eemedies. Also, Practical Eules for Buyers, Breeders, Smiths, &c. Edited by 
W. 0. Spooitee, M.E.C V S. With an account of the Breeds in the United States, by 
HiacBT S. Eandali^ 

Books FuhlisJied by A. 0. Moore. 


SrOUATT AND MARTIN ON TEE HOG ; - - - - $0 75 

A Treatise on the Beeeds, Management, and Medical Treat- 
ment of Swine, with Directions for Salting Pork, and Curing Facon and Hams. By 
Wm. YotJATT, V.8 , and W. C. L.Maetin. Edited by Ambeose Stevesb. Illustrated 
witli Engravings drawn from life 


A Fasiilt Text Book for the Country ; being a Cyclopedia of 
Agricultural Implements and Productions, and of the more important topics in Do« 
mestic Economy, tcience, and Literature, adapted to Eural Life. By Key. John L. 
Blaxb,D D. 


Being a Treatise on Draining Land, in which the most approved 
Bystems of Drainage are explained, and their differences and comparative merits dis- 
cussed; with full Directions for the Cutting and Making of Drains, with Eemarks upon 
the various materials of which they may be constructed. "With many illustrations. By 
B. MuNK, Landscape Gardener. 


AliD GARDEN ; 1 25 

Being a Compend of the History, Modes of Propagation, Cul- 

tnre, Ac, of Fruit Trees and Shrubs, with descriptions of nearly all the varieties of 
Fruits cultivated in this country ; and Notes of their adaptation to localities, soils, and 
a complete list of fruits worthy of cultivation. By F. R. Elliott, Pomoiogist. 

PANION; - - 1 GO 

With a Calendar. By Patrick Neill, LL.D., F.R.S.E., Secre 

tary of the Eoyal Caledonian Horticultural Society, Adapted to the United States 
from the fourth edition, revised and improved by the author. Edited by G. Emersox, 
M D., Editor of " The American Farmer's Encyclopedia." With Notes and Additions 
by E. G. Pardee, author of "Manual of the Strawberry Culture." With illustrations 


A Complete Guide to the Farmer, Steward, Plowman, Cat- 
tleman, Shepherd, Field Worker, and Dairy Maid. By Henkt Stephens. With Four 
Hundred and Fifty Illustrations ; to which are added Explanatory Notes, Eemarks, 
&c., by J. S. Skesnee. Eeally one of the best books a farmer can possess. 


Or, Pocket Companion ; Showing at one view the Contents of any 
Piece of Land from Dimensions taken in Yards. With a set of Useful Agrlculturi. 


Or, the Kitchen and Fruit Garden, with the best methods for 

their Cultivation ; together with hints upon Landscape and Flower Gardening; con- 
taining modes of culture and descriptions of the species and varieties of the Culinary 
Vegetables, Fruit Trees, and Eruits, and a select list of Ornamental Trees and Plants, 
found by trial adapted to the States of the Union south of Pennsylvania, with Garden- 
ing Calendars for the same. By Wm. N. White, of Athens, Georgia. 


"With a Description of the best Varieties. By B. Eastwood, 
"Septimus" of the New York Tribune. 


Being a Practical Treatise on the History and Domestic 

Economy of the Honey Bee, embracing a full illustration of the whole subject, with 
the most approved methods of managing this Insect, through every branch of it* 
CTilture; the re^ul* of many years' experience. Illustrated with many engravings 
By T. B. MiNEB. 

Boohs Published by A. 0. IkloonE. 


The Principles of Agriculture, by Albert D. Thaer ; trans- 
lated by William Shaw and Cuthbebt W. Johksow, Esq., F.E.S. "With a Memoir 
of the Author. 1 vol. 8vo. 

This work is regarded by those who are competent to judge as one of the most 
beautiful works that has ever appeared on the subject of Agriculture. At the samo 
time that it is eminently practical, it is philosoi'hicai, and, even to the general reader, 
remarkably entertaining. 


In its Eelations to Chemistry, Physics, and Meteorology : 

or. Chemistry applied to Agriculture. By J. B. BoxTSsniGAUiT. Translated, with 
notes, etc., by Geokge Law, Agriculturist. 

" The work is the fruit of a long life of study and experiment, and its perusal will 
•id the farmer greatly in obtaining a practical and scientific knowledge of his profes 


Being a Complete Analysis of the Whole Subject, consisting 

of the Natural History of Bees ; Directions for obtaining the greatest amount of Pure 
Surplus Honey with 'the least possible expense; Komedies for losses given, and the 
Science of Luck fully illustrated; the result of more than twenty years'' experience in 
extensive Apiaries. ByM. Quikbv. 


A Practical "Work, by a Country Curate. 
WEEKS (JOHN M.) ON BEES.-A MAl^UAL ; - - - 50 

Or, an Easy Method of Managing Bees in the most profitable 
manner to their owner; with infallible rules to prevent their destruction by the Moih. 
With an appendix, by "Woostee A. Flandkes. 

THE EOSE ; - 50 

Being a Practical Treatise on the Propagation, Cultivation, 
and Management «f the Eose in all Seasons; with a list of Choice and Approved Varie- 
ties, adapted to the Climate of the United States; to which is added full directions for 
the Treatment of the Dahlia. Illustrated by Engravings. 

First Series, containing Treatises on — 

The IToese, The Pests of the Faem, 

The Hog, Domestic Fowls, and 

The Honey Bee, The Cow, 

Second Series, containing — . . . . l 25 

fvEET Lady hek owif Flowee Gaedknbe, Essay on Manures, 
(Clements of AGEiotrxTXJEE, American Kitchen Gaedeneb, 


Third Series, containing — 1 25 

MxLEB on the Hoese'8 Foot, Vine Deessee's Manxtal, 

The Eabbit Fanciee, * Bee-Keepfe's Chaet, 

"Weeks on Bees, Chemistey made Easy. 

Fourth Series, containing — - - . - l 25 

Peesoz on the Vine, Hoopee's Dog and Gtnr, 

Liebig 8 Famillae Lettebs, Skillful liousEWiFK, 

Beowne'8 Memoies of Indian Coen. 


Directions as to their General Management. "Witb numerou? 
original anecdotes. Also. Complete Instructions as to Treatment under Disease. By 
B. D. EiCHAEDSON. Illustrated with numerous wood engravings. 
This is not only a cheap work, but one of the best ever published on the Dog.